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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Set-up 1

Related Articles: Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium by Ronni Marcum, General Freshwater Aquarium Set-Up Checklist by Bob Fenner, Tips for BeginnersAquascaping for Beginners; Twenty Tips for Realistic Aquaria by Neale Monks, Aquascaping Adventures in Aquascaping by Timothy S. Gross

Related FAQs:  FW Set-Up 2

Aquarists cause themselves tremendous problems through the common mistake of overcrowding their tanks. Here are some cramped Knifefishes in captivity.

Dying Fish in Freshwater System >Hello and thank you for having a great forum to ask these kind of questions.   >>Greetings, and you're quite welcome.  Marina tonight. >I hope that I provide everything that you need in order to guess what the problem might be.  If, please let me know and I will provide what I can.  I am new to aquarium life and have not dealt much with fish.  I thought that I had read all the important stuff, but there is a definite problem with my tank.  I have a 29 gal tank, running 7.1 ph and 77F.  I change the water every three to four weeks, which is what I was instructed to do.  I have been adding Stress Zyme weekly (1 tsp per 10 gal of H2O) and have added aquarium salt each water change, along with Amquel and AmmoLock.  Since I live in an area where the water is pretty hard (lime) I have also been using a tap water conditioner.   >>Not sure what "conditioner" you could use that would address water hardness and subsequent alkalinity sufficiently.  I live in an area with very hard water as well (it also passes through much limestone) and have found it's really best NOT to mess about with it. >After about 6 months after setting up the tank, the tank was populated with 2 pairs of guppies, 2 tetras, 2 algae eaters (don't recall the actual species - max of 3 inches), 2 catfish (don't recall the species there either, max of 2 inches) and 2 fish I would like to say were common goldfish, but aren't.   >>Fancy goldies, maybe?  Not exactly the "best" mix in the world, but it can certainly work.  However, considering the size the goldies can attain, and the fact that they are rather infamous for being "dirty" fish (produce MUCH body slime, for one thing) I would have preferred to either see a species tank (only goldies) or no goldies at all.  However, you have what you have, haven't you? >I don't think I overstocked the tank, as the only the algae eaters were supposed to grow to 3 inches.   >>This is incorrect.  Even the most short-bodied of fancy goldfish will attain an ultimate length of 6-8", and considering the girth of the animal means that using the "inches of fish/gallon" rule that I believe you've been "educated" about, you're well on your way to being overstocked as it is.  Also, filtration...???  And, the tetras, cats and algae-eaters are probably NOT at all appreciative of this salt you're adding.  The goldies are.   Have you also measured salinity? >About the 8th month, the fish started dying and although I have tested the water and all the readings are within limits, the deaths continue.   >>Sorry, mate.  "Within limits" tells me very little.  Also, you should know that using all of these water additives/conditioners can give you false readings, most specifically in the area of ammonia.  This also just happens to be the most toxic of compounds you endeavor to convert with biological filtration.   >Guppies will not survive more than a few months.  I thought that the problem was that fish just didn't live that long.  Based on what I have seen, nothing is farther from the truth, guppies living 2-3 years (not months).   >>Indeed. >Currently my tank has 1 algae eater, 1 catfish, 2 guppies (purchased last month), 2 tetras, and the goldfish.  I had purchased 2 gouramis (spelling) and they died after about 1 month.  I purchased 2 glass fish and they died after about 4 months. >>Two species that are not at ALL appreciative of salt!  Now you know.  Also, you will not do well to continue replacing the fish that die. >So far, nothing has really been surviving and yet all the tests show that the water is fine.  I thought that the deaths might be attributed to predation, but after watching the fish for a day, while one of the algae eaters died, I noticed that none of the fish really bothered it and other than the tetras chasing each other ONCE in a while, there is no sign of hostilities between the fish...making this whole situation even worse, as I can't determine a cause. >>Neither can I without specific readings and make of test kit. >I know that this isn't much information to me, does it lend anything that you have seen that you might suspect that I can check out?  Is there some tests that I can run to check if there is something in the water that I am missing?  Looking at the fish, I don't see any physical problems.  I took a couple of fish to PetCo and asked them, they sampled the water and said it was fine.   >>A word to the wise--find and frequent a QUALITY local fish shop.  Petco and the like rarely qualify as such.  Also, do know that more likely than not they're using very cheap test kits as well.  Again, "fine" doesn't give us specific readings, and since you've been using these products you (and they, even though they should know this) are possibly getting false readings.  Check for "Nessler's reagent".  Also, if salinity isn't being tested, stop adding salt. >I guess that the only other cause could be over-feeding and so I have resorted to feeding the fish a very small pinch of food, then adding more as it is eaten up until they show no interest in the food, usually about 2-3 minutes in the feeding.   >>This is the proper method of feeding. >So, I think that might leave over-feeding out, unless the fish are gorging themselves and I haven't learned to stop before that point.  Any help or a starting place would be most helpful.  I started this endeavor as a way to relax, other than petting my dog, but it is only adding to the frustration, and has basically become a money pit...all the best looking fish dying shortly after being introduced into the tank. >>Slow is the way to go, and if you're vacuuming the gravel when you do these water changes it may also cause trouble.  Not knowing what kind of filtration you're using, substrate (especially if utilizing undergravel filtration), sizing of filtration units, as well as test results and kit make leaves me with little to go on. >>ADDENDUM<< >Duh.  Dummy here.  After reading some more, it occurred to me that it is NOT lime that is in my water...it is alkaline.   >>No, lime MAKES water alkaline, alkaline being BOTH high pH AND well-buffered (meaning it resists change in pH).  In any event, DON'T mess about with it, as the pH WILL bounce, and if you're doing this, this could explain the deaths quite neatly. >The only thing that I could recall was that we use CLR to remove the scales from our facets, etc., and so the first thing to pop in my head was LIME.  Sorry...I guess LIME in water would EAT anything in the water and hence kill whatever is in the water. >>Incorrect. >Still reading through the TONS of things that aren't really part of my problem, but are good to know.  It is GREAT having a resource that consistently answers the questions the same way.  My experiences with the local store vary depending on who I talk to and what they are interested in. >>Yes, many decent LFS's (local fish shops) have people who have areas of specialty.  For instance, the LFS I started out with had an African Cichlid specialist, a South American/New Word cichlid specialist, a discus and planted system specialist, koi and goldfish specialists, salt specialists, and reef specialists.  We rarely crossed over, and would often send customers home to return when the appropriate employee was working.   >Since I have you online....SHOULD all these fish happen to die, which I hope won't happen, can you recommend a good mix of fish that will live throughout the tank, not just bottom and top?   >>Well, eventually they WILL all die, but hopefully they'll have a chance at living out their natural lifespans.  What's eating at me right now is that I'm interpreting your scant information to mean that you've been messing about with the pH, and this WILL kill the fishes quickly.  Almost all freshwater fish, and I think I can safely assume that ALL the fish you're trying to keep are farm-bred.  This means that they're well adjusted to varying pH values, and once properly acclimated their water quality *should* be sufficient.  However, you seem to be adding and fiddling so much that I would be hard-pressed to suggest suitable species without basically starting from scratch.  Also, the filtration thing again.  Try sending me the information I've outlined above, and let's see if we can start from there.  Also, try making weekly water changes of 25% withOUT adding salt. >I did see the note about changing the water every two weeks or so...that will make a big difference, as the store people stated 25% once a month.  Iley Pullen >>Indeed, however, in a PROPERLY stocked and setup system, monthly can do just fine.  In the meantime, let's slow down, use NOTHING other than dechlorinator (sodium thiosulfate) for the water changes, NO salt, NO other additives, and send the actual test readings, etc.  Also, go to our freshwater aquarium article section, and start with setup tips for beginners.  I think we need to get you back to basics, as this really shouldn't be so complicated.  Marina

Heater Over the last month I have bought 4 gold barbs and 2 checkered. I was told by the aquatic centre that I didn't need a heater in the water as long as my house was centrally heated in winter. <I advise that you invest in a heater>  However I have been told by someone else that they need to have a heater. <I agree with that person>  They seem very happy at the moment but I am aware that the weather has been warm. <yes, this is why indeed... a heater would serve you and the fish well during the colder months>  They are kept in my living room away from drafts. The tank is plastic and so I was told can't take a heater. <Plastic? how large is this aquarium? Does it have a filtration system? If not I would also invest in a 10 gallon aquarium (glass) which are about 10 dollars for just the glass, and then a bio-wheel filter, with a heater>  Does this mean I need to buy a new aquarium and heater or will they survive? <good luck, IanB>

Small Aquarium Stocking Hi, I have a question about using a small fish tank in a college dorm room. I want to have  a small aquarium, and I would prefer to have a shark living in it. Are there any specific shark varieties that would do well in a small aquarium? What size aquarium would be better a one gallon or a 2 and a half gallon tank. I am not looking to set up a huge aquarium, but I would like to know if there is any kind of shark I can get that would do well in this small of a tank. Also, I know a pleco would be much too large of a fish to have in the tank, but would there be any other algae-eater that you could recommend? Thank you so very much!  Jammi <Hello Jammi, unfortunately I am not aware of any shark or shark looking fish that would live in a tank that small.  I would definitely go with the 2.5gal over the 1gal, the bigger the better.  The Otocinclus is a great algae eater that stays small.  http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/otocinclusart.htm You might want to look into the Eclipse systems, they are compact, good looking, and the filtration is in the hood.  I have a 3gal Eclipse with a Female Betta, Otocinclus, and some plants (Java Moss on a rock, and Anubias).  As far as fish go, you might consider some (3) small Tetras (maybe Neons or Cardinals).  The White Cloud Mountain Minnow is also an excellent small fish.  Or maybe fancy guppies?  Check out fishbase.org for information on all of the above fish.  The picture of the White Cloud on fishbase does not do them justice.  I hope this helps to get you started, Best Regards, Gage>

First Tank Woes >Hi, I'm new to this so please bare with me. >>We were all new at one time or another, eh?  Marina to help you tonight. >I have just purchased my first aquarium, I have: 9 neon tetras 2 tiger barbs 1 silver shark  [Marina's note, probably Bala shark-barb] 1 redtail shark 2 swordtails 1 catfish 2 angel fish 2 platties 2 rocks Real plants I set up the aquarium filled with water and left it for about 5 days and was told by my local aquarium shop that is was now ok to add fish, and I did.   >>Oh my goodness, they had you set up the tank empty, and then sold you ALL these fish at ONCE, yes?  I'm hoping it's a 150 gallon tank.. >A day later one of my tetras had died, this concerned me so I check the water and this is what I found: pH about 9 >>Zoinks! kh 20 gh 14 >>You're testing your hardness??  No need, my friend.  All of these fish are accustomed to varying hardness, but a pH of 9..WOWEE, that's Lake Victoria hard! >no2 50 n03 200 >>Well, I'm surprised you're getting nitrite and nitrate readings so quickly, unless your source water already has them present.  Do test the source water for nitrogenous wastes, pH, but don't worry about the hardness. >I left a bucket of tap water overnight and did a water change and the levels have improved slightly. >>It would be nice to know the percentage of tank volume, neither piece of information appears to be available.    pH 8.4 kh 20 gh 18 (higher) no2 10 no3 75 >Do you think all my fish will die?  I feel so guilty as I have now been told I possibly put them in the tank too early! >>Balderdash and POPPYCOCK!  What has happened is that you have added TOO MANY fish TOO QUICKLY.  All from the shop that gladly sold you these animals, yes?  Along with all the test kits, I'm sure.  You have not mentioned filtration yet, and I will be hard-pressed to fully advise you without the following information: Tank volume; Filtration; Lighting (for those real plants); Substrate. >Am I doing the correct things?  Many thanks >>You're doing the very best you can, but alas, you need to do some homework first.  I will direct you to see this link and to purchase a very good book for planted aquariums-- "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" by Diana Walsted.  If you want the beauty of a planted tank, THIS is by far one of the best books around.  Now for the link:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm >>Make very best use of all the information contained therein, and know that you can save your fish, just don't stir the gravel or vacuum it, when you do the water changes make it BIG, and the tests that are important are the pH (though don't fiddle with it right now), ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.  These are the nitrogenous wastes that are killing the fishes.  Do this, and we go on from there.

The Hanging Fish Gardens of Babylon >I've noticed that on different decorations they are now suspending fish bowls from ceilings, with fish in them and plants coming out the top.  They say the fish live off of the plants and the plants supply the oxygen.  What type of fish and plants are they using? >>Hello, Brittany.  I have seen this done with the male of the species Betta splendens (an animal with what is known as a "labyrinthine organ"--an organ that actually allows the fish to assimilate atmospheric oxygen), and the plantings I have seen used are often Pothos, Syngonium, and bamboo.  I believe that any houseplant that doesn't require a great deal of light and will root in water would be appropriate.  I do not believe that the fishes require NO feedings, however.  I am sure that the plant/fish biotope will create a small population of small animals, but I am not so sure they're truly sufficient for the nutritional needs of the fish.  I would supplement with small, frequent feedings, and expect to change a small bit of water.  The plant roots would uptake many nutrients, but since they'll root as well with fresh water it seems prudent to treat it more like a planted aquarium than a truly self-sufficient biotope.  Marina

-Eclipse system 12- Hi! <Hi! Kevin here> I'm looking into small (10-15 gallon) aquariums, after spending a few days online going over brands and filter types I decided on an Eclipse system 12, but when I walked into the petstore and asked about it the first thing the 'petstore guy' said was, 'I don't recommend it, it's junk.' Do you agree? <Depends on what you're going to do with it. I'm a big fan of the eclipse line for small community freshwater setups. I think you've made a good choice.> and if so, can you recommend another aquarium set up with filter, hood, and lighting for under $100? I'm only planning on a few (maybe 4 or 5 small) fish and plants, is the eclipse filter sufficient? <Sounds like you're in for a very successful setup! Good luck!> Thank You so much for your help, beautiful website :) <Hope you learn from it! -Kevin> Sincerely, Virginia

Where to start? Dear WWM Crew, <Greetings! Ryan with you> I have read many FAQ's and have received a lot of help. <Great> Thanks so far! <Surely-It's nice to be of service> I'm a teenager who has taken an interest in fish. I went out purchased a 29G tank, with an AquaClear 150 Power Filter, I have about 10-12 lbs. of white gravel in the bottom. I purchased a hood with a light, a couple small fake plants, and a small castle. I have two Goldfish, and 3 Black-finned Tetra's, please help me determine what I "need", and what I "want", <Wow, how much simpler would life be if everyone asked me this question?  Just kidding- Jared, I would start by adding some good circulation in your tank- and being really careful to not overfeed.  Get in the habit of removing what you're fishes don't eat> as well as how long should I leave the light on for too?   <There are no plants in your aquarium, so light is not necessary. However, any animal will benefit from a predictable schedule.  Put your lights on a cheap timer for when you're home.> Thanks a lot, your advice will be greatly appreciated!  -Jared, MN <Anytime- And good luck in your new acquisitions! Search the web for local clubs that share similar interests-Ryan>

- Freshwater Livestock Selection and Lighting - What's Shakin'. <Not a whole lot - JasonC here...> I'd like your opinion on a setup that I am considering. <Ok.> I have a 120g tank that is 4x2x2.  I'm planning on putting an ornate bichir, black ghost, butterfly fish (you know the brown surface skimming variety) and a tire track eel together.  I want to use a large piece of driftwood in the center with various live plants.  Would sand be a good substrate? <Mmm... you'd be better of with something a little more coarse that would lend itself to easy cleaning/vacuuming.> I'll be using PC lights from my old reef setup.  220W total. What spectrum of bulbs? <Daylight would be fine, but the majority of your livestock choices might not appreciate the intense lighting, you might consider cutting back and keeping this tank dimly lit.> I also want to use an Eheim Wet/Dry filter.  Would that be enough? <If you use their large one, I think so... but you should check Eheim's specifications.> Do you think all the critters will get along and tolerate similar water parameters? <Most likely, but you might want to house more than one angel, just to keep aggression against the other fish down to a minimum.> Many thanks and handshakes in advance. Mike <Cheers, J -- >

New Freshwater tank planning Alas, due to a tight travel schedule and ever-diminishing time resources,  I am going to have to give up my reef tank (it's been up and running for the past 12 years). <Bummer> All is not lost, however, because I would like to set up a large (180 gal) tropical freshwater tank. <YEAH!> I would like your advice on a couple of areas, please: I plan to get a "reef ready" tank with internal overflows (just in case I ever go back to reef).  The tank will not be planted, and I would like to use bio-balls for filtration.  Does that sound like an OK idea?   <Sounds good to me.  If you are going for low maintenance leaving the plants out is a good idea, although there are some low maintenance, slow growing, low light plants you could use.  Bio-balls will work just fine.> I hate the idea of getting rid of a perfectly good (urchin pro) skimmer -- can I use it for freshwater?  I guess even if it is not as effective as in salt, it will at least oxygenate the water. <Won't really work in freshwater, it would aerate the water, up to you.  My electric bill is insane, so the more I unplug the better.> I plan to use natural gravel and hard rock (not limestone).  Do the same parameters apply for freshwater gravel beds -- under 1 inch or over 3? <kinda, but for different reasons.  If you are going with no plants you will want to use enough to cover the bottom of the tank, around an inch is good, easy cleaning.  Plants need deeper substrate to root it.> I would like to populate the tank with Clown Loaches (among others).  I have had good long-term success with these animals (I have two that are more than 12 years old).  Can I mix a "school" of smaller ones with the two large ones? (the big ones are about 6 inches). <Clown Loaches love company, you can mix in smaller ones, I would try the medium sized ones, a few inches.> Can you recommend other long-lived, peaceful fish for a community tank? <hmm...  Clown Loaches can be a touch aggressive, so nothing too peaceful.  Maybe some Barbs or some Angels?  A big shoal of Corys is always fun.  You have a lot of choices, its really up to you, check out our freshwater section and fishbase.org for more information.  fishbase.org is great for checking the requirements of any fish that you have in mind.  Best Regards, Gage> thanks tom

Multiple tank filter system Hi.  I was wondering if you could give me some info on setting up multiple aquariums on one filtration system.  I have about 10 freshwater aquariums that I want to set up on one filter but I can't find any designs anywhere.   Could you please help?? Thanks, Eric <There are a few articles and FAQs files archived on the business subweb on WWM re these systems. Please start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/Biz%20Index/Biz%20index.htm under "Set-Up". Bob Fenner>

No Heater? Hey Everyone, I'm just starting to think about putting together a freshwater tank without a heater.<not a good idea> So far I'm looking at either Kuhli or Yo-Yo loaches, not sure which ones I like more, but I think price and availability will be the deciding factor.<these loaches like warmer water, if you live in a colder climate they will die with a drastic temperature drop, especially the northeast in the winter, would invest the 20-30 dollars in a heater> I'm also looking at the Japanese Swamp Shrimp.<ok, found this link, hope it helps    http://suiso.com/ebi.htm> Questions: Will the loaches bother the shrimp? Will there be too much competition for food on the bottom? How many of each should be in a 40 gal tank together?< http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/cobitids.htm> Is it okay to put the shrimp and loaches in without quarantine from each other? <would quarantine all fish for at least 2-4 weeks before placement into the main system> Or will they contract diseases from each other? <can> Which ones should be put in first? What other fish would be good to populate the upper portion of the tank,<rainbowfish, conga tetras etc, can find other choices at WWM> hopefully from Asia, and not get too big? What kind of lighting should I have? <do read more at WWM> Do I need lighting when there isn't any live plants?<yes, for the fish> I get a fair amount of indirect sunlight where the tank will go. I have a filter already, it is a little old and I don't know how many gallons per hour it is, but it has a pretty good turnover.<would get a filter with a bio wheel> It is the kind that hangs on the back and basically sucks water up and passes through a sponge before it overflows back into the tank.<again would get a filter with a bio-wheel> What else could I add into the filter (because there is lots of room to add material) to increase filtration?< http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm> Do you think this is adequate? If not, what should I look at? (cost is a factor)<invest in a bio-wheel filter, will help tremendously, and do read about the cycle the aquarium must go through before the fish are placed. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/estcycfaqs.htm> Also, if the Japanese Swamp Shrimp aren't available is there any other shrimp that would work well in this setup?< http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwcrustaceans.htm> Sorry about the amount of questions, I like to have everything mapped out before I do things. <agreed>(except when my excitement gets the better of me) I don't even have a tank yet, but I want to get everything going soon after I do.<Keep reading my friend, IanB> Thanks for the help, Mike

In the beginning, there was a tank... Hi Wet Web, <Hi Samantha, PF here tonight> I am a beginner fish owner with several questions.  I recently purchased a 29 gallon tank package (tank, heater, filter, thermometer).  I set up the tank properly, washing it, the gravel, the plants - everything.  The tank was filled, water conditioner and salts were added, and I let the tank run for one week.  A friend recommended we purchase pH and ammonia test kits, and test the water before purchasing feeder fish for starting the initial tank-water cycle. So we did. <You wouldn't have any kind of nitrate or ammonia without something there to decompose, no surprise there was no change> The pH tested very basic, so we added the pH down solution....actually we added several rounds of it over a period of 5 days. <This stuff can take a while to take affect> The ammonia test, we did not attempt at this time.  No changes occurred. It still showed the basic blue color to test.  Ok...off to the local fish shop.  They instructed me that pH isn't something to be overly concerned about. <That all depends on what kind of fish you are keeping, some less, others vital.> Ok.  They sold me three cute feeder fish, and off home we went.  I introduced them to the tank slowly and all was well for about two days.  Then the tank started to become cloudy - I could actually see the coloring in the water swirling about! <This is bacterial growth from fish food/excrement> It got so bad that I couldn't see fish nor plant.  Everyday it got more and more yellow and cloudy  So I put the fish in a pail, and completely emptied, washed and re-did the tank and let it run.  However, foolish me almost killed the poor fish in the bucket I had them in.  As soon as I saw them wobbling on their sides I panicked and put them back into the tank.  They survived, thank goodness.  But it is now happening again. The water is turning yellow and cloudy slowly.  Why is this happening? <Your tank is still cycling> I did not use any chemicals to wash the tank and supplies, no pH solutions were added the second time, just the salts <I assume salt supplements for FW tanks?> and conditioners.  The fish appear to be happy.  They swim, eat and have periods of floating, where it appears they are resting. I keep the tank temp at 74 degrees F.  I hope to have a community tank with tetras, mollies, a bottom feeder, an algae eater and the 3 feeders.  But I don't want to rush into anything until I can get this under control and running properly. <Tetras, as I recall are Amazonian black water fish, be sure and research any fish before making the purchase. Your time spent will pay in healthy/happy long lived animals you don't have to replace.> 1.  Why is the water turning yellow?  (I have town water, used water conditioners and salts as directed)  Could this be a disease?<Much more likely it's bacteria, see above> 2.  Should I have an air-rator device of some kind? <Not necessarily, you filter will provide aeration> 3.  I've read on your website that small frequent changes are best.  Is once monthly sufficient for a 29 gal tank?  I have 22 gal of water in the tank right now. <twice a month would be better, weekly better yet. A 4 gallon bucket (most home repair/supply stores have them) with an airstone in it would be a good place to condition water.> 4.  The pH test kit and the ammonia test kit have no expiry dates on them, they are a no name type brand.  Can these kits become expired? <Yes> Is there a widely known, reliable brand you can recommend?  <I'm not an expert on FW testing, you might want to go over to the forum and post this under the Equipment & Dry Goods section. Here's the link to the forum: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/  I do know Salifert makes a very good test kit, but bear in mind they are priced to match. AS I recall, they're are test kits you can get that include pH, ammonia, nitrate, etc. for about $35> 5.  Is it necessary to have a test kit each for pH, ammonia, nitrates? <Yes> Should these tests be used frequently? Once a week or more? <Once a week would be a good routine> 6.  I would like to add real rocks to my aquarium to create neat living areas for the fish.  How can I safely go about this?  I have checked my local pet stores, but none sell anything but gravel. <Ok, there rocks you can get at a home supply store, or garden shop. You might want to see if any of your local greenhouses also do ponds ( a growing hobby ) they may be able to point you to some good local rocks to use. Also check here for some advice from Bob: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/rkwdscapeag.htm > 7.  During the initial cycling for a tank to get it started, should I be doing any water changes? <Small, regular changes won't hurt> How will I know when to do one?  If so, should the water changes be less than those of the monthly maintenance type changes? <No, biweekly would be better, say 5% (4 gallons) 8.  How do I know when the cycling is done and it is safe to start introducing other fish? <Test for ammonia and nitrate, when you have 0 ammonia, and the nitrates are dropping, there you go. Add fish slowly> 9.  I am suspicious that my filter is of poor quality.  It is an Aqua-Tech filter that hangs off the side of the tank.  It sucks water up into a bucket area and it passes through a flat cartridge like filter before pouring back into the tank.  The filter is a black plastic sheet with a pot-scrubber like foam attached to it.  Between the two is a small amount of charcoal pieces.  No matter how many time I try to shake it to even out the charcoal, they settle to the bottom of the filter cartridge. <Not really an issue, most charcoal becomes "full" in a few days anyway.> I am worried that this is not filtering enough, or efficiently.  Could this be the case?  The force of the water pouring back into the tank is very strong.  It pushes the fish all the way down to the bottom when they swim through it.  Should a filter do this? <Not a problem really. The biggest problem with your filter is that when you change out the media, you remove a big chunk of your biological filter. You might want to look a unit with a BioWheel instead. Now, if you go that route, don't ever replace the BioWheel unless it breaks. Even if it looks cruddy and barely rotates, leave it on - it will keep your biological filter intact.> 10.  Is there a method for feeding fish when you will be away for a couple weeks? <There are feeder blocks you can buy> I am new to my area, and know no one.  I do not want strangers in my house. <And I don't blame you.> 11.  Can I add water to the tank in between water changes, if the level appears to be low due to evaporation? <Yes, you should be topping off your tank> Thanks for any help you can provide to me on these topics, Samantha <You're welcome Samantha, welcome to the hobby and have a good night, PF> Looking for a thematic tank for a little girl's room I realize that this is more trivial than your usual question. But I'm looking for a "feminine" tank for my little girl's room.  A castle would be great, but we're open for just about anything other than the standard 5-gallon she has now.  If it tells you anything, all the fish are pink and match her room!  Any suggestions would be appreciated. Many thanks!!!!!!!!!!! J Riddle <Depending on what size tank you want, there are several options that are quite beautiful. The 2.5g to 5g Mini-Bow tanks come in a variety of colors, I think pink is one of them. The 10g Via-Aqua tanks also come in a variety and I know pink is one although these tanks are getting harder to find now. Both have filters and lights included with them and are big enough that you could put a small castle in them. I have one of each of these tanks and love the bright colors. Ronni>

Re: Girly Tanks Many thanks for the information.  Where can I find them. the Mini-Bows and the Via-Aqua? JAR <You're quite welcome. Many retailers sell the Mini Bows and a few are still selling the Via-Aqua's in certain colors. The ones I know for sure that have the MB's are PetSmart and Dr's Foster & Smith. Drs Foster & Smith also has the Via Aqua in one or two colors. But check around, other places will have them too, I just haven't looked specifically for these tanks lately. Ronni>

Re: New Tank Problems and General Greetings, <Good morning> On basically the spur of the moment, I set up a ten gallon aquarium. Filtration is a small Whisper Power Filter (for 5-15gal aquariums) and a 50watt heater. I got the temperature at a nice 78, and constant. I have two live plants, a long leaf plant resembling a Sword, and another that resembles upwards ivy (for lack of true names, I apologize). As I know that beginning fish are basically explorers in a new and dangerous "land", I added only 4 things. 2 Guppies (male and female sold in pairs), A Zebra Danio and an Aquatic frog. <You probably should have waited on the frog until the tank was cycled.> I used a Trial Sized Tetra Aqua Safe water conditioner at first (according to the directions given), and A little bit of Doc Wellfish's Aquarium salt (what is that stuff, anyway?). <Basically, it's an expensive salt. The same results can be achieved by many other means but this is marketed solely for aquarium use. And actually, do some reading on frogs. You may find that you don't want to use any salt (I'm not positive if they like it or not as I've never owned one).> When first entering their new homes (I don't have another aquarium to use as a quarantine, unfortunately) it only took a few hours for the first to die, the female guppy. At first everything seemed fine, but then she started being lethargic and finally it almost seemed as if she had narcolepsy. She would float by the heater, head upwards, and I saw no gill movement at all; then suddenly she'd spring to life, dart about the tank in a frenzy, then float again. She died shortly after she actually started sinking. <Sounds like shock. Did you acclimate them fully before adding them to the tank?> The next day (today), everyone was eating and seemingly enjoying he place. The frog (Who I have lovingly dubbed "Laze" as in "Lazy") sits beneath the fake rocks I put in. He shed his first skin (I was told this is normal, was I right?) but I have not seen him eat at all. <Should be OK on the shedding. Your LFS should have some specific frog food, probably something called Frog Bites that you may want to try.> Now the male guppy (who has been picked on by the Danio a bit), just after adding two live bulbs (Aponogeton and Dwarf Lily Hybrid), seems to be going lethargic as well, though he is not floating head-up like the female did. He'll swim a little (very little), then let himself sink to the bottom. His gills are moving, so I know he is breathing. Is this new-tank stresses? If so, is there anything that should be done besides regular maintenance? The Ph is perfectly neutral. <Check your water. The ammonia level may be starting to spike and causing distress, if so, do daily water changes until the ammonia and nitrite levels drop back down to 0ppm.> Also, I would like to try something, and you seem knowledgeable enough to give me some tips to do it, if it's possible. I want to someday build an all natural tank, the most electronics being maybe a small filter (meaning less than normally needed), heater and light, if that at all. To get a better idea, all natural plants, natural gravel, etc; a bit like a biodome tank. Is there anyway to achieve this state of harmony? <Go to http://www.wetwebmedia.com and do a search for biotope. That should give you a lot of information on it. You might also use your favorite search engine to search the web for it.> Also, how do you know when you have a nitrogen cycle going, and when it will be safe to add livestock besides my poor Danio and Guppy? <You can tell by testing the water for ammonia and nitrites and it will be safe to *slowly* begin adding fish when both of them have been at 0ppm for several days. It is highly recommended that you QT all new arrivals before adding them to your tank.> Thank you for your time. Ray in Texas <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: SW to FW Conversion A friend is giving me an aquarium. It has two holes in it and has a wet dry filter. He used it for saltwater. Can this filter be used for fresh water aquarium? Do I need to add anything or take out anything? <Yes, you should be able to use it for FW with no problems. If possible, have your friend come over and set the tank up for you (minus substrate and decorations, you can add those yourself) since he'll know exactly how everything hooks together.> He is also giving me an RO machine at a low price. (He is moving out of state and doesn't want to move everything.) Is RO water good to use on freshwater aquariums? Would I have to add anything to the water after using the RO machine? <You won't want to use straight RO water but if you mix the RO with aged tap water you will be fine.> He told me about your site and thought I'd check before getting and setting this all up. <Do run a search using the Google search box at http://www.wetwebmedia.com for SW to FW conversion for more pointers.> Thank You. Greg <You're welcome! Ronni>

Setting up 300 gallon freshwater tank... temporarily?? (02/20/03) Hello guys <Ananda here today...(one of the gals)> Our family has been into fish for years on a small scale fresh water brackish, African We have acquired a deal on 2 large tanks with filtration etc.. The 175 gal will be our first reef is was set up and running for years. We will be setting up the 300 gal first as a freshwater tank. The boys would like to have a lot of plants and fish. It has never been set up but has all equipment for a reef which after we get into the 175 gal reef I am sure some day we will convert the 300 fresh to a reef. <Converting a 300 gallon freshwater tank to a reef is no small chore. And if you have plants, it would be an even bigger chore. I have both freshwater planted tanks and a small reef tank. Honestly, I find the planted tanks take at least as much work to maintain as the reef tank does. However, a very large planted tank can be beautiful, and the tank size gives you a very wide variety of freshwater fish to choose from.> The 300 has 2 corner over flows a Life reef lf1-300 Berlin filter sump, 6 ft tall Protein skimmer, Life reef automated denitrifier, 25 w uv, we still need lights. <Lighting is often the most expensive hardware purchase for either a reef tank or a planted tank. You will need metal halides either way; for a reef tank you would probably want 2-3 times the wattage of a planted tank, depending on the types of corals you want to keep. I would contact LifeReef about how to set up the sump for a freshwater system.> I figure we should install the sump. Do we need the protein skimmer the denitrifier and the uv filter or should we put them in the loop when we convert to reef on the 300. <The protein skimmer will not work on a freshwater tank. If you plant the tank, your plants will be the denitrifiers. I would consider leaving the UV system off unless the tank inhabitants become diseased. --Ananda>

New Tank Set Up My new tank is doing great thanks to your very good assistance.  Your detailed response was extremely helpful to me. Cheers, Rosalie <I'm very glad I was able to help and thank you very much for the update! I find myself lying in bed at night wondering what's happing with the tanks I've given advice on so it's nice to hear back once in a while! Ronni>

First Time Fish Keeper Hello all, I am a complete novice at the fish tank thing... never even had a goldfish before... <Welcome to the madness'¦ uh, hobby! I am going to assume that you're planning on keeping freshwater fish so these answers will apply only to that. I'm also going to recommend that you get a book pertaining to first aquariums and read it to help you on your journey.> I bought a 29-gallon tank and can get a deal on a fluval 204 canister.  Does this suffice, being that I plan to have the suggested amount of fish per gallon?   <This filter should be about perfect.> Also, besides cleaning the tank, how long should I let the filter run before I can add fish? <Start your tank with just a couple of goldfish to help with the cycling process. Don't add any new fish until your ammonia and nitrites both read 0ppm. If you don't have the test kits you can take water to your local fish store and they should be able to test it for you. Once the readings are at and stay at 0ppm, then you can get rid of the goldfish and go with tropical or keep the goldfish and slowly start adding more. The key here is that whatever you add needs to be added slowly (to prevent overload of your biosystem and causing ammonia/nitrite spikes) and all new fish should be quarantined in a separate tank before being added to your main tank. The QT period should be 2-4 weeks and is to prevent diseases from being introduced into your main tank.> My house is always at 76 degrees. Do I need a heater if I get fish that are in this range? <You might be able to get by without one but I would still recommend a heater just in case of fluctuation. Depending on the fish you keep, 78 is a good general temp.> Does my tank require ANYTHING else to run properly besides the canister and the lighting? Such as a heater or powerhead (doesn't the canister filter provide the circulation, making the powerhead unnecessary?) <Correct, your canister filter will provide filtration and circulation so you won't need a powerhead. You shouldn't absolutely need anything else although as time goes on I'm sure you'll do like the rest of us and find things that your tank just 'can't' run without. *G*> Finally...I read everywhere that besides filtration, the tank water actually has to be replaced every so often. How often is that and how do I do that? (I hope it's not siphoning the water into a bucket and then adding fresh tap water, that would seem a little primitive) <This is very true and very important. And unfortunately, siphoning it out and replacing it is about the only way to do it. Before you add the new water though, you need to let the water sit for a few days to give the chlorine time to dissipate or it will kill all of your fish. It also needs to be at or very near the same temperature and also have the same PH. As far as frequency, I recommend 20% every 2 weeks or so.> Thanks for the help - J. Luque <Glad to be of service. Please also check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm and read through the FAQ's & Articles there for a lot more info. Ronni>

Heater choices Hi.  I appreciate your help very much! <No problem. Truly our pleasure. Paul here tonight, at your service.> I am planning to purchase a heater for my 20 gallon freshwater tank. <very cool....I mean cool as in cool idea cool. Not cool as in water temp....you know what I mean. Heheheh> I have read that Tronic and Ebo Jager are good brands.  Do you agree? <Totally agree on the Ebo Jaeger brand. Not much interaction with the Tronic brand but have heard praise of their worthiness. I have Ebo Jaeger in all of my fresh and saltwater tanks. In my 90 gallon I have had the Ebo Jaeger in there for over 7 years and it still is running strong. Most brands are fine though, IMO. Many places online to purchase all major brands cheaply these days.>  I was thinking I should get a 100watt heater. <Most systems require 3 - 5 watts of heater for each gallon. In high flow rate or wet/dry filter applications, 5 - 8 watts per gallon are suggested. Your recommendation sounds about right.> Our house is usually 72 degrees.  Does that sound right? <fine>  Should I get a heater guard to protect my fish from getting burned? < I have never in my past ten years of fishkeeping have I seen a fish get burned (at least that I know of)...If a fish gets burned underwater would he smoke? My shot at philosophy> I have a pleco that likes to hang on the filter tube so I am wondering if he might try hanging on the heater too? <I am sure the Pleco would sense the heat and keep away when the heater is active. Usually the heater mechanism slowly warms the coils so as not to just blast heat as soon as the thermostat comes on.> Also, is it best to position a heater vertically or horizontally? <Totally user preference here. I like to try and hide my heaters if I can so. Depending on what I am going to hide the heater behind will dictate the horizontal or vertical orientation. In aquascaping aquariums, I like to try and use a rock or plant to hide the tube from site. The key is making sure you have the setting you want before doing that, as it can sometimes be difficult to adjust once down behind some rock or plants or something.> Thanks so much for your help! <The pleasure is al mine Wendy. Happy fishkeeping> Wendy

Freshwater / Saltwater Sand Bed Gentlemen, Hope you can help me.  I'm in the process of setting up a large aquarium - 750 gallons.   Plan to initially set up as freshwater for a year or two and transition to saltwater at a future date.  For freshwater, I'm debating between Under Gravel filtration w/external mechanical filtration vs sand bed and external mechanical and wet/dry filtration.  Thoughts? <I would not use a sub gravel filter here... too much maintenance, downsides>   If I go the sand bed route - is there a type of sand that will work for both fresh and salt set-ups?  Recommendations are appreciated! <Only for freshwater organisms that appreciate hard, alkaline water. The substrates of utility for marines are mainly calcium carbonate based. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm> Thanks.  Your website has been a source of great help. <Ahh, glad to find you are familiar. Bob Fenner> Regards, Steve Walker

RE: Freshwater / Saltwater Sand Bed Bob, Thanks for the quick reply. Given that I hope to initially set-up the 750 gal tank as freshwater with eyes toward community tank - tetras, Gouramis, angels, etc... - what type of sand bed should I begin with for fresh and what depth? Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm Bob Fenner> Thanks again. Steve Walker

Re: New 15 gallon FW tank Hey crew, great site! I have read literally hundreds of websites over the past few weeks in search of information, and most of them conflict with each other. You guys seem to have your stuff down. I have a few questions for you experts that I either haven't found specific-enough answers for or which I want the advice of a 'pro'. Please, in addition to answering any questions you can, comment mid-paragraph if you see issues I should deal with prior to stocking my tank. I splurged this Christmas and used some gift certificates to get a 15 gallon Eclipse 'Show' Tank, which is beautiful and sitting on my desk as I write this. It has an activated carbon filter and sizeable BIO-Wheel, etc etc etc. I bought 2 15 lb bags of SeaChem 'Onyx' gravel because I heard the darker gravels can highlight natural fish colors. It's untreated, porous, and 'possesses a slight buffering capacity'. 1. What does that last line mean in terms of what it will do to my water/fish? <Essentially nothing. It may contribute to alkalinity.> 2. I also got a bunch of fake silk plants. I don't have the time, room nor lights for real plants... yet). One of these plants that is supposed to be Lilaeopsis has some sort of bendable, possible wire or cord in the middle of it. It is made specifically for aquariums, but is this wire apt to rust over time and pollute the tank? I read about this frequently. <Unlikely.> 3. Lastly, my handsome chunk of Malaysian Driftwood is presently soaking in tap water in a 5 gallon bucket with regular 2x a day water changes to remove tannin and anything else that might leach out. This wood will gradually 'lower' my pH reading, correct? <Possibly. Depends on overall mass, make-up.  It may not, but wood tends to lower pH.> My test kit just arrived as well. I tested my water straight from the tap and found the following (imprecise to say the least) results:     dH: 12-13     pH: 7.5-8.5 4, I know water from the tap settles and these measurements change, so what should I prepare for/expect after activated carbon/driftwood/time set in? <Just test pH, alk, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates as usual. This is all individual so you will need to wait and see.> 5. I also read on this site that the best chlorine/chloramine treatments are poly-vinyl ones. Is it safe to assume that all tap water has dangerous amounts of chlorine/amine in it and should be treated? To what extent? Any recommendations on brand names for this? My tank came with Wardley (R) Watercare CHLOR-OUT. It smells slightly like acetone. Is this one of those fish mucus-inducing brands that I should avoid? <I try to avoid these additives altogether by using aged water and or RO/DI water. I would fully test the source water and start with what you actually have.> My room temperature usually fluctuates from 72-78 F, since my computer and monitor are on almost 24/7. I am seriously considering buying a heater, but my room temperature stays between 72 and 78 (usually 76) and I think/hope the light on the Eclipse hood combined with black substrate will sufficiently heat up my tank for most FW fish. 6. Should I get one anyway? I have about 8 bucks to my name so price is important. ;) Should I just fill the tank and let it settle and monitor the temperature over the first week? <No, get a heater.>> 7. I am very sure that my local tap water has something in it, since it leaves a white residue when it evaporates. My friend who is into SW tanks said it is high in phosphates. Should I treat this for FW fish or would it be sort of like the 'water softeners' that do more harm than good? <You may want to consider some sort of water filtration/treatment, or buy water from your LFS.> 8. Pondering the issue of aeration... Is the Eclipse hood bound to provide enough aeration with the bio-wheel and minor splashes from the filter output or should I buy a small air pump and air stone? <Aeration is fine as is.> Now finally to stocking the tank: I have done lots of research, to no avail, in search of recommendations for good *SETS* of compatible fish for beginners. I am looking for recommendations on good tank mates, preferably very hardy and tolerant fish that will do well with each other. I came to the conclusion that guppies are good (64-82°F; pH 5.5-8.0; dH 10-30), as well as Corydoras (Trilineatus is what I am aiming for, 72-79°F; pH 5.8-7.5; >dH 2-12). I don't think Cardinal or Neon Tetras would survive in my water, despite my fondness for them. <Any of these are fine. You are smart to match water conditions to the needs of your fish.> 9. Rainbows are also reportedly very hardy fish but would they survive? Praecox, Turquoise, or Boesemani are my preference. <Depends if you can match proper conditions. This is entirely up to you and your water.> 10. With guppies at the top and cories at the bottom, my tank would need a midwater fish (something colorful and lively but not aggressive or a tail-nipper) that would survive in alkaline, harder water. What do you recommend? <Hmmm, remember this is only 15 gallons, do be cautious stocking/overstocking.  Most of the fun is actually shopping around for *really* nice fish. I would suggest starting with a few small fish and go from there. The temptation will be to add more and more.....so start slow and add slow!> 11. Any last words of advice or pre-emptive eulogies for my future fish? <I don't do eulogies! I'm a positive thinker! Watch water quality, perhaps get a good book, don't overfeed, and check out the FW stocking section of WetWebMedia.com.  Take it nice and slow is my best advice.> Much thanks, for your responses to others and for your fantastic site! <Thanks! Hope this works for you!  Craig>

UV in freshwater aquaria Hello,   <Hi there> I've read a lot of your FAQ on using UV sterilizers on marine aquaria but I haven't found anything about using UV in freshwater aquaria.   I've just bought a 480 litre tank which is cycling at the moment and I am considering buying a UV unit, principally because of the practicality of chemically treating a tank this size for disease and the lack of availability of a quarantine tank for the larger size fishes that I intend to keep in it, as well as the cost of stock replacement and the fact that I really HATE seeing fish suffer.   My local dealer recommends a Vecton 8 watt unit or a pond clear 6 watt unit but this is contradicted buy the advice on the Vecton box which suggests a 25 watt unit for this tank size. <I would go with the Vecton 25 watt unit... this line is made by Tropic Marine Centre there in the UK... and is superlative... but size of system, flow rate through the unit should be matched.> I have two questions -- what are the pros and cons of using a UV unit in a freshwater setup? (My dealer says it will eradicate 99% of disease problems!) and if you recommend a UV unit for my setup, which one of the ones I have mentioned? <I don't know about 99%... but will help reduce incidence, virulence of water born pathogens... and improve water quality overall. The only negative is the initial and operating costs... electricity and bulb replacement. Bob Fenner>

Turtles to fish Hello, I just discovered your site--maybe just in the nick of time. Here's what I'm doing: I kept two rather large Red-eared Sliders in a 90-gallon tank for several years. About a year ago, they were adopted by someone else. Since then, my system has been running with no livestock in it, no heater and no maintenance other than topping off the water. Last week I decided to set up the system for fish. In addition to the existing gravel in the tank, I dumped some dry gravel from a second tank (also formerly a turtle tank) into the 90-gallon tank. Then I vacuumed the bottom, cleaned the Fluval 304, filled the tank with all new water and turned on the heater. I haven't tested the water. Is this likely to be a safe environment for fish? <Should be> Is it possible that it is a still a "cycled" system? <I would certainly think so. Test the water and add fish slowly> What should I do now? <Start doing those weekly water changes and add some fishes...slowly> Thanks for your help. <No problem! David Dowless> Charlie Stricklen

Flow Rates of Overflows, Etc. Thanks for the opportunity!...... For an 8'x2'x2.5' freshwater tank with large cichlids, I'm assuming I'll need about 3000 gallons of flow per hour. I am having the tank constructed, and I want to be certain I am building into the design the things I need to make such flow possible. How much flow can I expect from overflows? I guess I mean what will a 1" pipe allow to pass through on a gravity feed from the top or bottom of the tank? <There is much info available about this on the web. Try sizing overflows at one of our sponsors. This will give you an idea of capacity. Nevertheless, I recommend sizing overflows and plumbing. You can always turn it down.....but the reverse requires re-engineering, expense.> I am guessing I'll need several holes drilled (depending on their diameters) to facilitate filtration, etc. on a tank such as this. <Yep> I am debating between wet/dry vs. pond/pool filters (e.g. Aquanetics, but I can't seem to identify just what I need) vs. fluidized bed (or a combination). Since I want to be able to keep the detritus, etc. out of the water as much as possible to reduce the total nutrients in the system day to day (i.e. changing the prefilter daily) it would seem easiest to have a wet/dry setup in a big (75 gal?) sump which utilizes a micron bag that I can access easily. The water would then flow through the bio-balls and other media in the sump. But would two or three overflows (typical commercial design) generate a sufficient water supply for the return pump (please suggest some options). <You will need to remove particulates, chemical and biological filtration. With Cichlids all three are necessary, they are messy eaters and big eaters make big waste problems. I would size the system to your needs, and then some. I always doubled my capacities with cichlids.> Alternatively, I guess I could have a hole drilled about every foot or so along the top of the tank, fit them with bulkheads (no overflow boxes this time, and feed all the 1" (or whatever size) pipes into one or more micron bags just before the sump. As far as noise goes, would this be as quiet as a Durso standpipe in a "traditional" overflow box? <Regardless of overflow type, I would vent them just like a Durso to avoid suction noise. Again, over sizing these is well advised.> Still, I'm worried about water flow around and under the decorations, etc. for the purpose of allowing the overflows to mechanically filtering the water prior to wastes accumulating to a significant degree (remember... big messy cichlids!). Would you support the idea of a closed loop arrangement to move water from the lower layers of the tank around? How about a similar setup yet with the addition of a canister or whatever prior to returning the water? I had thought about using the wet/dry with the addition of some form of mechanical filtration added (the closed loop turned into a filter supply and return.. perhaps the Aquanetics deal). <All of these would work. A closed loop is a good idea. You can take much of your ideas with perhaps the exception of actual water flow, from reef and messy marine set-ups.> Another thing, and please forgive my rambling, I'm not looking forward to the nitrate boom and the need to change 100 gallons of water each week. Any suggestions to naturally reduce the nitrates in fresh water? I have thought about some way to include floating plants in the tank (somehow dealing with the overflows; don't want them sucking all the plants away!). I've also considered building a "freshwater refugium" wherein I would cultivate fast growing bunch plants, etc. to help naturally reduce the nitrates (the "refugium" would be needed since my fish would devour any plants in the tank proper and create filter blockages and generally big messes). I've been wondering about adding fresh water mussels too. <Work on maximum filtration up front, concentrating on removing un-eaten food and fish wastes. This should eliminate the wastes before they become a nitrate problem.> I guess overall, I'm looking for something that is much more sophisticated than the 18 tanks I currently keep. I have been successful for years with more modest projects, but I'd like to move from a crude 18 tanks to three very large biotope tanks of "museum quality" (for lack of a better way of putting it!). I really want to do it right, and need some direction........... If I'm way off please let me know! Thanks! <Nope, planning ahead is right on target!  As I see it your main concern should be sizing your filtration/flow rate to your needs. Sounds like fun!  Craig>

Freshwater questions - Lighting and filtration Hi Guys, have really enjoyed the sight and loved your previous advice.  A couple new questions. <Excellent> 1. I am finishing cycling my new 72 Gallon freshwater tank.  I don't plan to make it heavily planted - but I do want to grow a few plants.  Currently I have 4 java ferns, 1 Bolbitis fern and some Java Moss all attached to small pieces of bogwood or coconut shell caves. (If you haven't guessed, I was thinking easy maintenance, low light requirements, movable plants - LOL).  Now I am also thinking of adding some Riccia fluitans (attached to a mat that can be secured to some rocks, etc to give a lawn effect). <I have found that hair nets work well to secure the Riccia, fishing line works too, but the hair nets I bought were 3 to a pack so I got to wear one while decorating.  It takes aquascaping to a whole new level.> Currently I have a single fluorescent strip light that came with the tank - (it has a 40 watt G.E Aqua Ray 9325K bulb).  From what I have read, 2 to 3 watts per gallon is recommended for heavily planted tanks.  So I since I am at about .6 per gallon, I know I am way under that. <That watts per gallon business totally depends on your plants, the depth of your water, surface agitation, how thickly caked with water deposits the glass in your hood is (I've got some pretty nasty ones), and other factors.> Will the plants I chose do ok with just this single light? <I would add a full spectrum bulb at least, two could not hurt.> If not, would you recommend going to a dual fluorescent strip (80 watts), a triple strip (120watts), or a compact fluorescent (110 watts). <It depends on how sick your obsession is.  I like the power compact idea.> Also, I know from your articles, you favor the Vita-lite (or similar bulbs in the 5500k range).  Is my Aqua-Ray bulb the wrong range for what I want to do? <I am not familiar with the Aqua-Ray bulbs.> If I have to go to more than 1 bulb - could I mix a 5500k and my existing 9325k bulb? <sure, as long as they are both the same type of bulb/correct bulb for your fixture.> 2. Second question - I a filtering this 72 gallon with a wet/dry sump filled with bio-balls (the tank was reef ready).  I feel comfortable this is pretty sufficient - but I have been toying with the idea of adding a second "backup" filter if I can find a used canister fairly cheap.  My main reasoning would be to use this as both a failsafe - Plus while I would have the canister do some biological filtration, I would mainly use media for more mechanical filtration.  Is this overkill or a reasonable idea?  Any downside to this idea. <Like I said, it depends upon how sick your obsession is, I think the wet/dry will be fine, but the more filtration the merrier.  With the wet/dry on the tank I would focus the canister on mechanical filtration.> Thanks, John <You might also want to try rigging up some DIY CO2.  Check out the planted tank articles on our site as well as the links below.  Best Regards, Gage http://aquabotanic.com/ http://www.thekrib.com/  >

Filtration Howdy, <happy New Year> I found your site and read for a few hours yesterday learning a TON of information regarding my new 30 gallon freshwater tank.   <excellent! keep learning and sharing> The basic setup that I have is a 30 gallon Power Filter, 100 watt heater, thermometer, ammonia chart (which changes color in the presence of ammonia), 2 plastic plants, and one large plastic magma/lava rock formation.   <hmmm... no mention of a primary biological filter here? Just a power filter? Even if it takes foam block instead of pads (some biological that can be preserved by rinsing instead of replacing)... the lack of a stable bio-liter like a large canister or UG filter is dangerous if true here. Certainly will fail with large or messy fishes> I have (2) small 3 inch Tiger Oscars, and one 4 inch blue channel catfish.   <Oh, no! All three are huge as adults and grow quickly... this tank isn't big enough for even one of these fishes in the 12-18 month picture. Please trade these fishes in and get more appropriate sized specimens for a 30 gall (adult size 3-5").> When I first got my tank I had read differing ways of cycling the tank for the first time and the leading websites, not yours, recommended just starting the tank with 2 to 3 small, hardy fish. Let me start by what I did wrong: WAY overfed them, tried a bunch of different chemicals (store-bought) to deal with the ammonia problem.  This led to ICK which I am now treating with CURE-ICK. <do be careful here too...the oscars are tough, but the catfish is scaleless and will overdose on most medications easily> Today I literally cleaned my whole tank with a light bleach solution and a 100% water change.  I know this will now need to start the new cycle again and is but a temporary solution but I wanted to get all of the scuz out of my tank and start fresh - and hopefully a little wiser. <and do buy a better filter ASAP. A large Fluval or Eheim would be quite helpful here. Much less stress for you and the fishes too... less work as well> The questions that I have are as follows: How often should my fish be fed on a normal basis?  Every day or every other?   <actually... 1-3 small feedings daily> This is what my LFS recommended because of my ammonia problem. <Your ammonia problem exists because they didn't advise you of a proper and stable biological filter> How MUCH should I feed my fish?  A friend claims the stomach is about the size of the eye. <hmmm... and old rule of thumb that isn't true but works reasonably well to guide beginners to not overfeed. Indeed... a tiny feeding 2-3 times daily is best> What other type of filtration would you recommend besides the Power filter that I have?  Please try to give me the best solution under $200. <absolutely, my friend. My advice (instead of a UG filter since cichlids dig in the gravel) is to get the biggest canister filter that you can afford that uses foam blocks (no HOT magnums here... go for Eheim or Fluval). Inside use all foam blocks or noodles for complete biological filtration)... and even slip a small course foam block on the intake in the tank to act as a bulk pre-filter (this will tremendously reduce the need to service the bio-foam in the unit. Carbon and chemical media can be kept in the power filter instead which is easier to service more frequently (but is lousy for bio-filtration)> Erm, anything else that you can help me with would awesome and thanks again! Awesome website!!! Jim Howrie <thank kindly, Anthony>

Heater for 2.5 gallon My daughter got a 2.5 gallon eclipse with a carbon cartridge and bio-wheel, we want to know if we need a heater and a air stone for the following fish male guppies, Tetraodon Schoutedeni (puffer). Thank you for your help. <I would get a very small wattage heater (likely 25 watts is the smallest) and carefully set this in the mid- 70's range. A warning about the fishes you list. The Puffer is very likely to eat your male guppies. I would go with something more easygoing to accompany them. Bob Fenner>

Re: Well Water... Bleeding gravel color I just got a 10gallon aquarium for Christmas.  The beautiful new gravel rocks started to shed their dye in the water.  I have well water with a water  softener. <your water hardness (or lack thereof) had absolutely nothing to do with the leaching color... the LFS sold you/you bought inferior gravel...period. Even in hard water this would have occurred. And if by reason of acidity/low pH... then still would have occurred in alkaline water in time from organic acids. The gravel was the problem my friend... not your water> Then I added the "start right" stuff, and my poor fishy was getting poisoned.  What could make the rocks lose its dye?   <simply a bad batch or bad brand. Do try a natural aggregate instead of a colored one. Far better for the fishes anyway.. they show natural colors better on such gravel> The guy at the store said it wasn't supposed to happen. Can you help me?? Terryjo <Hmmm... was this an aquarium store or a department store? An aquarium store is unlikely to sell such a product. I would hope the merchant at any rate will stand behind their product. Best regards, Anthony>

Freshwater Set-Up Hi, We are setting up a 12 gallon Eclipse system in our business office.  My husband wants to decorate the tank with automotive engine components (brand new, of course).  I have a 120 gallon salt water aquarium and know that metal is a big no-no in salt water.  Can we put metal in our freshwater tank?  It would be aluminum or stainless steel so it wouldn't rust.  I'm just concerned about dissolved metals in the water.  Currently, we have a betta for the tank and will probably add two or three more fish, although we're not sure what kind yet. <Interesting concept... I would run Polyfilter in your filter all the while (to hopefully remove metal ions as they go into solution). Is there any way to coat the parts with clear material... so they stay looking nice and don't interact with the water? Maybe ask your suppliers what they use for making such demos. Bob Fenner> Thanks! Holly

Protein Skimmers for Fresh Water Would there ever be a time that a protein skimmer would be beneficial in fresh water? If so, please describe. Thanks. <protein skimmers are used in freshwater systems that have heavy bio-loads and are hard (water hardness) and especially if they have at least some salt added. Pondkeeping and African cichlid tanks are the best examples I can think of. Hard salted freshwater with heavy fish loads. Best regards, Anthony>

Establishing Nutrient Cycling How do you guys recommend starting the cycle without using fish? Drop a couple Hikari pellets? <While any organic matter will work, with a saltwater tank you can just use liverock. There is plenty of dying matter on new liverock. If you are setting up a freshwater tank, you can still do fishless cycling using ammonia. There are numerous articles on the process. I got over 450 hits on fishless cycling when searching Yahoo. -Steven Pro>

Freshwater liverock? Hey crew:)   Here's a question I've always wondered.   Will live rock become 'live' in the sense of biological filtration over time like salt water live rock will?   Even if you 'kill' your live rock it will eventually hold biological filtration, is this true in fresh water as well? <Yes it is. Bob Fenner> Mark

New Tank For The Holidays Thanks for the response.  Well I did set up a system with flex tubing buried under the gravel (with just the tips exposed) to facilitate water movement in the tank - and it works well.  Unfortunately I have had some other problems. <That's always "par for the course", as they say...> In essence, I had some problems with a leaky bulkhead. After trying to stop the leaks with no success, I had to cut it out (because the pipes from both side were glued in).  My LFS had no bulkheads - so I tried to plumb it with some parts from Home Depot.  Actually came up with a setup which worked (or so I thought). It worked fine till my pump was on - then I started getting a leak from the new bulkhead.  So a late nite trip to Wal-Mart and some Silicone caulk solved that. The pump and plumping then worked fine for a day - but then another leak - this time it was creeping up the threads of a ball cock valve I used as part of the new bulkhead set-up.  So by this time I am pretty frustrated (not to mention my wife who isn't happy with the mess) - so I take the new plumping out, break the tank down, etc and call the manufacturer for a new bulkhead - which should hopefully arrive this week - and then I will start fresh. <I can sympathize> Now my question / dilemma.  When I started to set up this new 72 gallon tank, I promised my wife we would have our old 29 gallon tank (which we drained 80% of the way and slid on its stand out of the way where the new one is going then refilled it leaving it in the same room close by) closed up and out of the room by Christmas. (These are both freshwater tanks and the 72 gallon is replacing the 29 gallon).  Well, now that I have lost 2 weeks at least of cycling the new tank - I am not sure I can do that.  So, I am trying to figure out if there is some way to cycle the new tank sooner. Now, I have read all the faq's, etc and know that this is pretty unlikely - but what I am wondering is what if I set up the new tank with a few (3 to 5) fish from my other tank initially (along with some handfuls of gravel from the existing tank in a mesh bag in my sump) - and then in 2 weeks, I do a water change removing about 29 gallons from the new tank and putting in all the water and the rest of the fish (about 15) from the old tank - plus hooking up the old tank filter to the new tank to run temporarily (or alternatively, putting the filter media in the sump of the new tank).  Am I just asking for trouble - or does this have some merit? <While I would never say that this kind of thing should be a "standard procedure", there certainly is some merit to "jump starting" a new tank by using gravel, filter media, and even some water from an established healthy tank. If anything, you will bring in a lot of beneficial nitrifying bacteria and other microfauna which will help this tank cycle much more quickly> My thinking is that the water from the old tank, which has been running several years, plus the filter will help the cycling process along. <Yep- as above..> Plus given that I have typically done 50% water changes on the old tank every 3 weeks (I know probably too much at once and not often enough - but it was always a pain with buckets - now I have a Python for the new tank which will make things a lot easier) - my fish are pretty used to a 50% water change.  I realize most of the good bacteria are living on the gravel or filter media but I am not sure if enough would also be transferred via moving the water to the new tank. <Well- like I said, it's certainly going to help, but it won't guarantee an "instantly cycled" tank. BTW, I think you'll find that smaller, more frequent water changes will give you great results with a lot less labor than you might think> Am I all wet with this idea - and should I just live with a typical 30+ day cycle period - and an upset wife (although she is probably resigned now to this) because the old tank is still up and running in the family room over Christmas - or do you think this will work. Thanks, John <I guess that the old adage from reef-keeping comes into play here: "Nothing good ever happens fast in a (reef) tank". Unfortunately, as much as we'd like to, or as much as we try to help-Mother Nature seems to have her own time clock, and is not obligated to follow ours! I think that, if you explain to your wife that it's better to let things go along naturally, than to try to force stuff, she'll understand. A tank full of dead and dying fish, suffering from ammonia toxicity, right by the Christmas tree will certainly not help the holiday be a happy one! Just hang in there-you're doing it right! Regards, Scott F>

What media should I use in my new Eheim? I am going to set up an Eheim 2026 on a freshwater 55 gallon moderately planted tank. I use RO water with RO right and discus essential from Kent. I have two discus, two blue rams, 8 neons, 5 hatchets, 3 glass cats, two loaches (clown and yo-yo), 1 small clown Pleco, 4 Cory cats, and 3 otos. What filter media would you run in the Eheim? <All of the filter media products are made to handle a specific area of filtration. Decide what you want the filter to do for your tank and select media based on those decisions. Eheim does a good job describing the functions of their media>    If your answer includes a bio-media would you use Eheim sintered glass (Ehfistrat?), fluval¹s bio-max, bio-balls, or something else? <IMO I would only run Eheim media products> I currently have a Fluval 304 on the tank, but have decided to go with the Eheim instead (just haven¹t been completely thrilled with the Fluval). I have ceramic and Ehfistrat in the Fluval and will migrate that to the Eheim and then migrate from that to whatever you recommend for the long haul. <You'll be happier with the Eheim> Thank you for your help. <You're welcome. David Dowless> Jeff Abramson

Filter Sizing I have a 37gal freshwater tank (African cichlids) and need to know Fluval or Eheim. Heard of newer Fluval clogging up quickly. I know u guys are more partial to Eheim. So any clue  of what size to use looking at 2215 (164gph) or 2217 (265gph) would like to have luxury of self priming model. Any suggestion would be appreciated.  Rocky             <well, Rocky- as they say- "Bigger is better" when it comes to filters...I'd go for the 2217, which can handle (according to Eheim) up to a 150 gallon tank. I'd rather have the luxury of more filter media space, than be limited by too little. And the price difference makes it worthwhile to go to the larger model, IMO. Good luck! Scott F.>

New Tank Set Up Questions Hi, love your site.  I just bought a 72 Gallon bowfront tank and am planning on setting it up this weekend.  It will be a big upgrade from the one 29 gallon tank I have.   <Yep- should be nice! You'll enjoy the flexibility and stability that a larger tank affords!> I plan on using it as a freshwater tank - but it already is reef ready (got a great deal on it) with a built in overflow system - so I will be using a wet/dry filter. My 2 questions - in doing some reading / research: 1. I have read where some folks recommend you put some filter floss / batting down on your glass before the gravel.  The theory is to provide the good nitrifying bacteria more room to grow.  Is this a good idea and is there any downside to it? <I've heard of this, but I personally have never seen the necessity of doing so. I tend to just use a nice layer of gravel of the appropriate size, keep it clean, and maintain good water conditions. I don't think that you need to go to the extra trouble.> 2. I also would like to insure some good water flow in the tank at the lower levels (for a variety of reasons).  Kind of similiar to reef tanks with steady currents.  My options are to put a couple submersible powerheads / pumps near the bottom in a couple of places - or do a plumbing setup with pvc tubes running to a few spots on the bottom - with a single pump / powerhead hooked to this pvc tube pushing water thru it.  The tubes would then be buried under the gravel with just the tip - nozzle heads sticking out. (Basically an idea I have stolen from here - its the last concept discussed on that page - with pictures / diagrams included):   http://www.vatoelvis.com/Movement.html I am interested in what option you think makes sense and why - and any downsides you see to either.   Thanks John <The idea is neat. I've never tried it, but it seems to be a nice approach. Much "cleaner" than powerheads, from an aesthetic point. I usually don't like to see things like powerheads floating in the tank, so this seems like a better idea. As long as this makes sense to you- I say to go for it! Have fun! Regards, Scott F.>

Wet/Dry "Aquasystem" for freshwater planted aquarium Hello, <Greetings from David Dowless in sunny Las Vegas!> I have a 50 gallon "TruVu Aquasystem" tank, roughly 40x16x20" tall -a previously outstanding reef tank with built in wet/dry filtration system. I would like to resurrect this tank into a  planted fresh water habitat for a few Discus, Gouramis, and such small mellow friends. I have NEVER had a freshwater aquarium (though I actually made a business out of the early booming reef tank phenomena of the late 80's/early 90's) . How do you think such a system would support the desired habitat?  <I think the tank will work great. Just remember to choose fish that are from similar habitats with similar water and care requirements. Of course you will need strong lighting from the start (reef lighting will be fine) and to get really lush plant growth, you may eventually need a CO2 reactor. You can research this on Wetwebmedia.com under freshwater articles.>  From what I've read, it will not need or even like the massive current flow that the reef thrived on. My primary question is in regard to the wet/dry filter system.  How would you expect this to work?  <It will work but please submerge the bioballs to reduce the nitrate the wet/dry will produce. If you find that you need less flow, down size the circulation pump or add a ball valve so you can throttle the existing pump back. Just don't restrict the intake side of the pump>  I do have an Eheim canister,  <It will work> protein skimmer  <Of little to no use in a freshwater environment> UV sterilizer  <Can be used>,  and diatom canister as well  <diatom canister will work for occasional water polishing but isn't really needed. Your call on this one>  My guess is that the wet/dry will do the job without these?  <I agree. None of the above are essential or even necessary. In fact the addition of these other items may be overkill. The Eheim will likely become another nitrate factory>  I have two other questions, related to lighting and plants, but I'll send these as separate inquiries to aid in others searching's. Thank you very much for your time! Richard <You are more than welcome. Good luck. David>

Freshwater Cycling, water quality, medications, ch, ch, ch, changes First/ kudos for such a wonderful site I have been reading for over two hours. <Thank you from the entire WWM Crew!  Keep reading and stay tuned for the upcoming books!> I had a tank for years when I was little with city water, it seemed so much easier then. Recently I was given a 20 gal tank. I have well water with a salt softener.  My problem. I cannot keep my PH down, and the ammonia is 2ppm!  I can't believe I still have fish.. A little history. <Alright, if you have ammonia in your well water with a 7 pH and a creeping pH, I would first suspect your softener is not operating properly. If your water chemistry prevents the softener from removing ammonia, consider purchasing a reverse osmosis/de-ionization unit to remove these contaminants from your source water. See the sponsors of WetWebMedia.com for several of these.>   I set up the tank with rinsed gravel from the local pet shop (an hour and a half away from my house) for a week and a half,  under gravel filter with the air stones on the side, over the side Whisper 2000 filter with carbon and sponge bag.  plastic plants.  I (had) have clear water and perfect ph temp around 76 and no ammonia, non existent.  Water out of my tap is neutral ph.  so after 10 or 11 DAYS and ph of 7...I put 4 neons , 1 catfish, 3 Rasbora scissor tails, and 2 pink tetras of some sort.  In about a week the neons get ick.  I figure its the pet shop I bought them from. After reading your site, (I put too many in too fast). <Yeow, too much too fast and no test results of nitrites or nitrates! It is likely the fish died from nitrites.  Slow down.....breathe...> Started medicating. Then tested the water. PH high..9.0 AMMONIA .5PPM.  Immediately get the ph neutralizer for my water, one cap ful for every 10 gal and switch out 1/2 the water while vacuuming. Neons and catfish do not make it, ph is now 8.5 and the ammonia is 2ppm. <Alright, slow down and stop all the water additives. The "medication" likely killed off your biofilter so the ammonia spiked, to be followed by nitrites, which you should also be testing for. Perform regular water changes (with clean water) to keep this in check until your tank cycles again. If you must medicate, remove the fish to a quarantine tank and treat them there. I suspect the rising pH is your softener or perhaps the "rinsed gravel" if it is not packaged specifically for aquariums, usually coated. Water changes with RO/DI water (pH 6-7)from the local fish store will lower the pH.  If it creeps up from there then I would suspect the gravel and remove/exchange it with coated gravel specifically for aquariums.> Now water is cloudy, neutral at first and ph still climbing. without writing a novel. When my treated well water out of the tap stands for a few days,, just in a glass the ph gets about 8.5. I do not overfeed the fish,, just about twice a week. So I changed the water again. 1/2 <You nailed it...it's your softener. Go to one of our site sponsors and look for a deionizer (less water waste) to treat your water. You should look into having your softener serviced.> This time I use distilled water (figure my well water has too many minerals, iron and such), and carbon with crystals that keep ammonia down.  The ph is at about 7.5 but the Ammonia is  still high. <Yep, killed biofilter from meds...> The water is cloudy and the fish are swimming a little sideways.  I've now use a product called Cycle that ads bacteria so the filter will work and the fish won't get stressed.  I have added another air pump incase they are not getting enough 02.,  The water is still cloudy white (after reading your sight that is the bacteria ?).. the fish are not very active, they do not seem to like the light.  I cannot believe the distilled water does not keep the ph down naturally.?  I treated the tank with Ammonia Block 2. From the very beginning on advice from everyone.   Its like a chemical cocktail for those fish.. I really want this to work. <Make water changes, get a good test kit for nitrites, nitrates so you can see your tank cycle. The pH is about right considering you are starting with 9.0 to begin with.  If you change 50% with pH 6-7 distilled water it can only reduce to the mean, IOW, 7.5.> I realize now perhaps I should just wait and see? <Mainly water changes with better water until the cycle is re-established.> Now that I have read your sight finally, others are not as informative, I realized I should just let it sit.   <Tested for nitrites and nitrates too.> I have the ammo carb in the filter along with carbon, inside the little cloth / sponge bag thingy..  Things have changed in 20 years, and I am only 34. <Don't blink, it will again my friend!> How long would you suggest is a normal waiting period for that bad ammonia to go down.. I read the whole AX and Y thing about the ammo block 2 but it is too late I already used it.  You do the test you see that bright yellow and you panic and medicate.  I just don't want the little guys to die, they are swimming weird.  I know you get bombarded with so much I am just so in the country and I am such a city girl.  I am having a withdrawal for info.  Thank You.  Laura <Alright City Girl! Your tank will cycle again, so you need to perform water changes (with RO/DI water, reluctantly the distilled water because of other possible contaminants like copper) to protect your fish from nitrites resulting from ammonia breaking down. When this process is done ammonia will be zero, nitrites zero, and nitrates upward of 10 or more. Regular water changes reduce nitrates. Just stay on top of your water quality, likely for 10 to 14 days.  There is much, much more for you to discover at WetWebMedia.com in the freshwater set-up pages, do check them out!  Best of luck!  Craig>       

Freshwater Stocking/Set-Up Thank you for all of the information. I don't know why people that don't have a clue open pet stores! <It is all about the moolah.> Let me make sure that I understand you correctly. I need the underground filter or I have to have a canister filter? <Correct> How is a canister filter different from a box filter? <It has extra biological filtration capacity.> Also, what size freshwater aquarium is easiest to maintain with the least amount of water changes? <They all require water changes. You can and will be very happy with this 20 gallon tank if you pick appropriate fish. Right now, everyone you have listed will outgrow this tank and die because of it besides the Gourami. Let me suggest you remove everyone, put the undergravel filter back in the tank with about three inches of gravel. After ammonia and nitrite are both zero, you can begin adding some fish. I would look at Rosy Barbs, Tiger Barbs, various Danios, etc. They will all due well together, in this size tank, and with the Gourami.> Thank you. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nitrogen cycle - should I just start over? Dear Guys, <Howdy> I have been trying to cycle my tank for four weeks. The 3 starter fish are all dead. The ammonia never really spiked, it went to 0.5 ppm and stayed there. <Judy, have you read this?: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the linked files, FAQs at top?> The pH went from 7.4 (tap water) to 8.6 and stayed there.  <What? Is this freshwater? Do you have live rock? Any idea of what your alkalinity is?> Nitrites are completely out of whack. My test kit only goes up to 5.0 ppm. I know nitrites have been higher than that for at least two weeks. <Yeeikes!> Last night I made several dilutions of 4 ounces of tank water using tap water to get the nitrites into a range that I could read it in my test kit.  <Good technique> I estimate that the nitrites are 30+ ppm. Nitrates have stayed at 10 ppm. My questions: (1) is there a nitrite test kit on the market with an upper range greater than 5.0 ppm? (2)  <Yes, but unnecessary... if your nitrites are in excess of 1 or so ppm, there is trouble...> should I just dump the whole thing and start over?  <Let's go back... tell us about your system, what you did to get to where you are now... it may be that there is no advantage to starting again...> If so, should I use the sponge filter without rinsing it in the hope that some of the correct bacterial colonies have started to grow?  <Need background info.> Or do you think bacterial growth has been inhibited by the high pH and high nitrites (I know they need nitrites - but maybe extreme levels inhibit their growth). <A few things may be causing you troubles now, and later...> (3) If I do start over I am going to try fishless cycling using plain store bought ammonia.  <Mmm, don't do this... please read over the above citations... save yourself time, money, grief> The instructions I have give the desired starting concentration of ammonia in mg/ml, my test kit measure in ppm. Can you tell me how to convert ppm to mg/ml? <Milligrams per liter is equivalent to parts per million... milligrams per milliliter will be 1000 times milligrams per liter... divide your readings (in mg/ml) by a thousand to get ppm. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Judy

Re: Nitrogen cycle - should I just start over? Dear Crew, Bob responded to my first email and asked for more information about my system (sorry I wasn't more explicit in my first email). I am providing the additional information here with the hope that you can give me some much needed guidance. My original email with Bob's answer is attached below this new information for your reference. <much help, thanks kindly!> Here is the information about the system I am trying (unsuccessfully) to cycle. I am cycling in my deliberately bare bones 10 gallon tank. This tank will eventually serve as a back up to my 30 gallon. I cannot fill my 30 gallon tank at this time because I have to move it soon. However, if I ever get this nitrogen thing going, I will put the water from my 10 gallon tank into the 30 gallon and fill the rest with tap water and temporarily move the sponge filter to that tank.  <all sounds like a good plan thus far> My main filter for the 30 gallon will be an Eheim canister filter (Ecco 2233). <which is running on the 10 gallon now hopefully... diffused flow if necessary> System that I am currently trying to cycle: 10 gallon bare bottom FRESHWATER tank sponge filter airstone heater (water temp =80 degrees F) thermometer Days --5 to --1: Baseline measurements: tap water pH=7.2 Nitrite=0.5 ppm Nitrate=5.0 ppm Ammonia=0 ppm Day 0: 3 fish added to tank Day 13: last fish died Day 24 pH=8.4 <yowsa! What made the pH jump from 7.2 source to 8.4 in a bare bottomed tank?! No gravel to buffer. Either a chemical was added or there has been a misreading. If true, it may easily explain the fish death> Nitrite=20+ ppm Nitrate=10 ppm (this is the upper limit of my test kit. Actual nitrate value may be higher) <no worries here on the nitrate even if fairly high> Ammonia=0.5 ppm I have only provided the first and last measurements I made. I tested and recorded results several times between days 0 and 24, but omitted them from this email in an attempt at brevity. <understood and appreciated> Before starting the cycling I read the article on your website as well as chapters on the nitrogen cycle and how to cycle a tank in several books. I understood the process and thought I understood how to accomplish it. <indeed... fairly straight-forward> In light of the above information: How do I proceed from here? Dump it out and start again? Is anything salvageable? <no dumping yet... but do try to discover how that pH got way up there (any buffer or additives?). If the readings were accurate, it is a problem that may kill more fishes. I'm not too concerned about the cycling... it all comes in time with stable water chemistry. Let me suggest a large water change, wait 2 days... test pH again and then add a few hardy starter fishes> If I ever actually get to the point of being able to stock my 30 gallon tank, I promise to name my first fish after you! Thanking you in advance, Judy <in that case... Stimpy Rodriguez it is... Anthony Calfo is just an alias. Thanks kindly>

Jebo Aquarium Tank Inquiry Dear Bob, <cheers> I'm thinking about purchasing a 15 or 25 gallon Jebo aquarium tank for my future trio Japanese Blue Glass Guppies( including 1 neon green Cory catfish and 2 algae eaters.) I want to know if the Jebo tanks (a tank made in China) are a good brand to invest in? (If not can you recommend a brand of aquarium tank that is good for guppies.) <alas... we are not familiar with this brand yet in America... mfg site at  http://www.jebo.com.cn/html/company.html > Do you know if the filtration system of the Jebo is ok?  <likely fine for modest needs of guppies> And I also plan to have live plants and sand in my tank.  <excellent> Do I need an under gravel filter?  <not necessary> And should I use power heads?  <in larger aquariums over 20 gallons> And what kind of heater do I need? <a titanium one or one with a remote thermostat would be ideal but may not be necessary> Should I also clean my new tank before I add anything in it?  <rinse with salted water> After cleaning, should I add the sand, plants, and water in and let it cycle for 2 weeks before adding any fish?  <just a few days for clarity and temperature stability will be fine> After that should I put in a cheap fish to test out my water?  <yes> If so for how long before I can put the fish I want in?  <4 weeks would be ideal> Any suggestions or advice would be much appreciated. Thank you for your time Bob. Sincerely, Anna <best regards, Anthony>

A Bait Tank Howdy! By the time you see this, the auction will be over, but I thought this was almost hilarious: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2057335328 Aquanetics is selling a bait tank! And the category was under Fish bowls! HEEHEE. -Cathy <>< <Hysterical... but really a very nice unit... and it does sell for about this amount. Bob Fenner>

New Tank Hi Bob, <Steven Pro in this evening. Bob is probably still on the road from Dallas back to San Diego.> My husband and I decided to get our to little kids a fish tank a week ago Saturday. We bought a Starter Kit from Walmart and some fish. We set up the tank (5 gallons) according to the directions, washing everything out and putting in the chemicals for tap water. Our problem is that our water has been cloudy for a week now and there is a horrible smell coming from the tank. What do you suppose is the problem?  <Several possibilities; initial overstocking/cycling problems, overfeeding, under filtered, etc. Please take a look at this article, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwtips4beginners.htm> Help, we are very new at this. Thanks, Sheila Squier Oldershaw <Welcome to the hobby! -Steven Pro>

Filtration and lighting a planted tank Hello to all, I first want to say what a wonderful web site you have and what a potential for learning exists here. << Thanks, we do our best! >> I am starting up a 90 gallon plant tank and have just a couple of questions regarding filtration and lighting if that is OK. << shoot >> For lighting I have a Power compact lighting system that is a 4 bulb 96 watt each system. <<Fabulous!>> What temp spectrum bulbs would you recommend? I was thinking of using 2-6500k and 2-5000k bulbs. Or would it be better with 4-5000 or 4-6500? << I'd personally lean toward the 'sunny' side - 5000K, but the quality of the overall spectrum is really more important than the peaks, which are more about aesthetic preference. See if you can get spectral charts of your candidate bulbs to make an informed decision. >> For filtration I am lost plain and simple. My LFS has no clue and every article I read has a different opinion. I was going to use a undergravel filter with a 4" layer of fluorite on top. The reason for undergravel is that I am concerned with anaerobic bacteria growth in a 4" substrate with no flow that would possibly kill the fish within. The UG would be a reverse flow powered by a Magnum 350 canister with a carbon insert. What is your opinion? << I personally love UGs, but I'm not so sure about their place in a heavily planted system. Still, sounds fine, except - unless you already have that Magnum, consider something a bit more refined - like an Eheim >> Thank you for everything and please keep up the good work online you guys are invaluable for your help and knowledge. Philip Tomarchio << You're quite welcome, Cheers, Zo >>

Cloudiness Hi, my name is John. I set up a 55 gallon cold water aquarium in my home @ 3 - 4 weeks ago. I believe I did everything according to manufacturer's instructions and information from various books. One thing I had to do was set it in front of a window, as this was the only spot we have for it. I added a background scene to try to alleviate the light from the window. The water temperature varies from @ 70 to 76 degrees depending on how much sunlight we get. <A six degree temperature swing can be very problematic, a trigger for parasitic infections. You should adjust your heaters and/or chiller to maintain a more consistent temperature.> I have 8 small (max. 3 ") fish in the tank right now, but want to add more. A week ago I added a bottom feeder to the tank, which seems to be doing well. The fish all appear to be healthy. My problem is that my water is very cloudy, and has been for a couple of weeks. It is a white cloudiness, not green. I have cleaned the filters a couple times (foam & carbon bag inserts), but have not done a water exchange yet. How can I clear up this cloudiness? <This sounds like a bacterial bloom related to cycling and the age of your tank. Test kits measuring ammonia and nitrite would be particularly useful.> Any suggestions would be much appreciated. <Please search through the www.WetWebMeida.com site regarding cycling and the nitrogen cycle. -Steven Pro>

uv filter for freshwater hello a friend of mine has a 90 gallon with cichlids he has a problem with algae growing on the glass he just has no 20 watt flo. and a tetra tec filter and a few good size algae eaters but they cant keep up with it anyway do you think a uv filter would stop the algae from growing <Mmm, not really... Ultraviolet sterilizers are of more use for "free floating" algae... "green soup" types. But we have many other better ideas to help your friend get his system back in control. Please read and refer him here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm> iv never used one so I don't know if that would work or not thanks for any info <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

salt water tank (to fresh) A friend of mine has a salt water tank (empty now) and I wanted to see if it was possible to clean the tank and reuse it for my cichlids. <Nothing wrong with the tank> If this possible? <Some of the equipment may not work, namely a protein skimmer, but most other things are ok.> Thanks, Matt <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Cycling Freshwater Tank Hi crew, This is the first time I email you, and I hope that you can give me the help that I deadly need it. I bought a 16 gallon fish tank 3 days ago I but I think I didn't start right the problems begin with: 1) even I washed the gravel for 3 hours and I thought the wash water was clear but when I put the gravel and filled the tank with water, shortly the water became not clear as it should be it has been colored a little white, but the fish still doing well as I think but I am afraid it could affect them indirectly after some days 2) I have 4 Fantail goldfish + 2 calico butterfly telescope eye goldfish + 2 iridescent shark pangasius + 2 Angel black lace <My friend, you have received some dreadful advise. You have way too many fish in such a new tank and really some fish that do not belong in a 16 gallon tank, regardless of how new or old the tank is. For right now, I would remove everyone but one goldfish with the hopes of eventually housing just two. These are big fish that put a large demand on the filtration.> the second problem that I've noticed that the Angels don't eat all fish going to the surface to pick the seeds but the Angels don't and even, I've been warned to overfeed them that's why the Angel couldn't find left food for them to eat (maybe they don't like eating from the surface) <They maybe stressed and not eating due to water quality issues.> 3) today I saw one Fantail I always swims slowly and her head is always down while her tail is upward and her upper fin is always closed somehow. please help me cause I've tried to chat on your chat forums but I couldn't find anyone to help me even I searched all the Aquariums chat all over the internet. they were always empty, so I will be grateful if suggest me some place to chat in and to get the right information that I need cause I think I will need information and advises everyday. <Please see our coverage on setting up and cycling freshwater aquariums. You can begin your education here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwtips4beginners.htm and I would strongly recommend you read on through the blue links at the top of the page.> I will be waiting your feedback and please as soon as you can, your reply will be so appreciated Regards, Mahmoud Saleh <Best of luck to you in your current situation. -Steven Pro>

FW Set-Up <<Greetings, JasonC here...>> I bought a complete tropical freshwater aquarium set up from EHEIM. It came together with all the accessories. Its a 112 L (25 Imp.gal / 30 U.S.gal.) aquarium  Dimensions : Tank length 80 cm (2 ft. 7 in.)  Tank width 35 cm (1 ft. 2 in.)  Tank height 40 cm (1 ft. 4 in.)  It came together with two (2) 18W MARVA (commercial) Cool white fluorescent lamps. My tank is currently overstocked with small fish but fish are happy and I have no problems. <<For the moment.>> My internal filter's filtering capacity is 220-570l/h and 30% weekly water changes keep the whole tank and fish in good condition. <<I would just proffer that water changes can not eliminate the social problems of overcrowding - imagine living in a shower-stall with 10 of your friends - sure you can all get clean... but there would certainly be problems.>> I started to plant some small live plants that don't grow too much a couple of weeks ago and they seem to go well. I keep the light on for 10 hours daily. I was wondering if my lighting capacity is enough (2X18W) or if I need to change the lights with some stronger ones. <<You mean specifically for the plants? Depends on the needs of the plants you purchased.>> I also noticed that fish show different colors in my pet shop and when I bring them home they look different. A recent example is a small platy that I bought last week. It looked bright red in the pet shop and its orange in my tank !! <<Perhaps get the same bulbs they use at the store, if the change in coloration is a concern.>> Thank you in advance for your help, George <<Cheers, J -- >>

Filtration, aeration, circulation Dear Jason, <<Hello...>> I have read here and elsewhere that there are (at least) three things that I will want to do to the water in my freshwater tank: filter it, aerate it, and circulate it. <<Sure.>> For the filtering aspect I plan to get an Eheim 2233 Ecco filter for my 30 gallon tank. Is that a good filter? <<Yes.>> My question concerns the aerating and circulating aspects. It seems to me that a bubble rod or an airstone running from an air pump would not only aerate the water but also circulate it. Is that correct or do I need to run some additional device to circulate the water? <<It is correct, but may not be sufficient on its own... you should probably augment with a powerhead.>> If the answer is that I need another device, could you provide the specifics of what I would need? <<Depends on the size of the tank, the size of your budget, and the animals you are keeping in the tank.>> (I read that the Eheim is not that great at circulating the water.) <<I'm not sure I agree... if it weren't any good at circulating water, then it wouldn't be a good filter either. I'm sure this will do fine, although you could easily add another powerhead if this doesn't seem adequate once the tank is set up.>> Many thanks for your help. Judy <<Cheers, J -- >>

Please advise!! (freshwater set-up) First, I would like to thank you for your website and all of its useful information. I am setting up a 60 gallon freshwater tank. I have a power filter and was given a undergravel filter with powerhead. Should I be using both systems or is the power filter enough? <I like to use both.> How many filters should you have for this size tank? <For a 60, I would probably have just what you have (a powerfilter and powerhead operated U.G. filter). You may need two powerheads for the U.G. depending on its layout.> Also I am in love Mormyrids, I would like to have one in my aquarium and was wondering what other types of fish would be good tankmates? <Please see here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/mormyrids.htm> Thank you for your time. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Filtration of various sorts in FW tanks I have recently been in yet another thread on the desirability of "high tech" filtration where great emphasis is placed on the type model and attachments vs light/mechanical filtration largely dependent on a mature well planted aquarium. >From reading your various articles and replys, it would seem that you (collectively) are proponents of the high tech approach. Thus it should be simple for you to answer my questions. <hmmm... I honestly would disagree with this assumption and proffer the explanation that one needs to understand the enormity of this site (~300 megs!!! with literally thousands of pages of text) encompasses many years of FAQs and articles. Indeed... advice varies per situation and changes as our collective knowledge of aquarium science evolves. Bob, Steven and I are adamant proponents of natural aquarium systems (live rock and sand for marine aquaria and plants for FW systems). Many aquarists that seek advice however have/want big fish or overstocked systems which may require supplemental filtration like Wet Dry filtration> Are there any studies done on the role of overall tank nitrification contributed by the different models of filter. <I am not aware of a recent independent "product comparison"... perhaps you'd care to do our hobby a great favor and conduct one <G>. We'll be grateful to have the report for posting on this site and for our aquatic science e-zine.> By this I mean, how much of the total nitrification in a fresh water tank does each type filter contribute as independent from the biological filtration at work in a cycled tank. <it is limited by the load put upon it assuming the population of nitrifiers themselves are not limited by media surface area or sources of ammonia/nitrogen> It doesn't even have to be a planted cycled tank, I just want to see some reliable (preferably not from the filter manufacturers themselves) study results in regard to comparing the different brands of filter with a moderate to heavy fish load. <Alas... Our industry has no large consumer watchdogs or like groups conducting such studies> If you were to take each filter, and stick it on a new tank (holding size of tank constant) and put a moderate to heavy fish load in the tank (holding size and type of fish constant), what would be the results? I would even agree that a filter could be "pre-cycled" before use. <hmmm... is this a hobby for you or a science? Both are great fun... but searching through hobby venues for scientific data on hobby equipment/brands is indeed challenging> I'm thinking that these studies must have been done somewhere along the line, especially from the population of filter fanatics after the publication of Walstead's book. I have not run across anything more recent (in the way of truly controlled studies) than what is noted in the krib. Even if you don't know off hand of any studies of this sort, could you point me to a source that you think likely to produce results? <quite frankly... I would look to industrial applications (non-hobby) for such reliable data. I realize that you are indeed aware that most every filtration model that we use is an adaptation of an industrial application (usually waste treatment). Here you might find useful data that can be extrapolated to compare the various applications and efficacy converting waste by weight (fluidized bed versus wet/dry versus substratum, etc). Best regards, Anthony>

FW Lighting Alright. One more question. I'm a vision/camera engineer. I use electronic T8 high frequency ballasts to illuminate my subjects. Could I use the same for my aquarium? They aren't high wattage like VHO, but are high output - more along the lines of fluorescent lights used for offices. They strobe at 20kHz. All I would need to do is find the right temp bulb with the correct spectral curve (peak in the orange-red). I'm guessing the bulbs you buy from Petsmart won't work with high frequency ballasts? Planning on using 6. <Truthfully, I have no idea if they will work or not. There are T8 lamps used in aquariums, but I do not know if these ballasts will light the aquarium lamps. If you are looking for a low cost alternative, there are many people who use shop lights from the hardware store. Just make sure they are the 4 foot variety that operate 40 watt lamps, not the 32 watt energy savers. Take a look at a very good DIY site, www.ozreef.org> Much appreciated, Bill Day <Have a nice evening! -Steven Pro>

Iron Content Hello, <cheers> Just a brief rundown of my aquarium in question: 30 gal. tank, 65W C.F. lighting (I'm thinking of adding a second 65W ballast...if I can squeeze it in!), substrate is about 20% laterite, 80% quartz(?) gravel, with a large Amazon Sword, two fairly large ocelot swords, two bunches of java moss, a "grassy knoll" of micro sword's, and a smaller anubias v. nana (sp?). All seem to be thriving quite well, with the exception of some slightly yellow new shoots on the Amazon sword. I've been using a product called "Biospheres" plant fertilizer for some time now...about 4 months. This product contains chelated iron, or it's supposed to. I've also started adding a product called "Flora Fe" the past few weeks. Anyhow, BOTH of my Iron test kits, one made by Seachem and the other by RedSea, show just a trace...IF ANY Iron content. This is after letting the test stand overnight. So, I guess my question is: Could it be my plants are using the Iron as fast as I add it?  <unlikely> I do 25-35% H2O changes weekly and add fertilizer each time, but since I've started testing for iron (about two months ago), I've only recently seen a TRACE of iron content in my water. Also, I have three rather large chunks of Malaysian driftwood...they couldn't be absorbing it could they? <no, my friend> I'm a little hesitant to start adding Iron based root tablets, mainly because I have no undergravel heating, hence no circulation down there anyway! <perhaps there is plenty of iron in the laterite media... but I wouldn't fixate too much on a targeted iron reading for the water column. Plant growth and vigor will be the ultimate indicator. Do experiment judiciously with iron tabs if you like. > I'd appreciate any insight on this matter, as I'm already adding about double the amount of fertilizer that the bottle recommends! <I would not recommend that at all... I'd sooner suggest that you simply stick with current dosing and replace trace elements and minerals through regular water changes> Thanks and cheers,  Michael <best regards>

FW Lighting Howdy. You're site is impressive. My question is with what kind of lighting is required for certain fresh water plants with a sand bottom. I'll start with the swords - 2 amazon. My tank is a 40 long. <A nice shallow tank.> Depth is ~15". I'm using a 48" 40watt bulb. Will the amazon swords see enough light? <Not with just one lamp.> I've looked through your articles and understand VHO is probably the way I should go, but they are a bit pricey. Could I get by with a multiple 40 watt lamp system? <Yes> Say, a 2 bulb system? <More like 3-4 40 watt lamps depending on exact plant species.> Thanks! Bill Day of Holland, MI <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

New FW tank Hi guys  you have a lovely site with many valuable info which I read often. <thanks kindly! keep learning and sharing> I would like to ask some questions about my new tank. I am new in fish keeping but I am reading a lot in the internet lately. Still there are always many questions that need some answers and I hope that I will get some help. I got a 110 Lt glass tank with an Eheim internal filter, thermostat, gravel and some plastic plants. I added some rocks which I took from another cycled aquarium. The tank was filled with tap water treated before with Tetra Aqua safe and Tetra Aqua Vital. I also added Stress Zyme to help bacteria growth. The tap water has a PH 8 and GH 8. <the pH is a bit high for some freshwater fishes. It will be fine for brackish species, most livebearers and many cichlids... irritating to most Tetras and South American fishes> The tank is place on a shelf with no direct sunlight and I have the lights on for 10-12 hours a day. I left the tank with no fish for three days then I added a few fish. After 18 days PH is 8 GH is 8 and nitrites < 0,3 ( I use a Tetra Nirite kit). I didn't make any water changes yet. They told me to wait till the tank is fully cycled. Then I will do regular water changes, gravel cleaning etc. I notice that the tank's glass gets hazy and cloudy and looks green near the bottom of my tank. Is it normal and will go by itself or can I clean by myself during the water changes ? If the water is white hazy it is simply a bacterial bloom (harmless) and common until the tank establishes. Do check for ammonia and do water changes as necessary. If the water is green hazy then you have a suspended algae that needs to be precipitated with a product like "Filter aid"> Grass also grows on my rocks and my plastic plants become green and sticky. Is his normal ???  <nuisance algae is common in all tanks but more so in young tanks and overfed ones. Do consider if you might be overfeeding slightly. Food should not hit the bottom of the aquarium before fish can get to it. Several small feedings are better than one large daily> Fish seem happy even though I lost one Platy and one Zebra Danio. I wonder if my tank is cycled since for the last days nitrites are stable(< 0,3 ).Should I buy a nitrate kit too and test nitrates? <zero ammonia and nitrite will be sufficient readings> I have now the following fish : 3 Tiger barbs 5 Zebra Danios 5 Serpae Tetras 1 Platy 1 Swordtail  I would like to add some more Platies, some bottom feeders, some Clown loaches, some cardinal tetras and one small shark. <forget the cardinal tetras... they will not like the high pH if the barbs or sharks don't kill them first. The clown loaches also get way too big for the fishes you have (over 12" long!)> Can I have some suggestions about the number of fish for my tank (pls don't give me as an answer the thumb rule of 1"/gallon). <it is an awful rule of thumb. I'd say 30-40 small fishes with an adult size of 2 inches or less. If you get sharks or loaches this number will be dramatically reduced>  I would also like to know the compatibility of the fish I want to have in my tank as well as some suggestions about the number of fish I can buy for each species. I would like to thank you in advance for your valuable help. George <may I suggest a great book from Tetra: The Freshwater Aquarium. Answers all of these questions in better detail than we can get into here without re-writing the book. Best regards, Anthony>

Freshwater, Fish Dying Hello: <<Greetings, John,>> Have some questions for you regarding my tank. I am fairly new at this hobby and like a lot of people have said on your website there IS TOO much info out there for new fish hobbyists. At any rate, I feel you know what you are talking about and you won't confuse the most of us that keeping getting different answers. So here is my story. I bought a 20 gallon tank, with 100watt heater, whisper 20 power filter with the filter bags, air pump with the air bars, came with full hood and light, etc, etc. I did everything right as far as cycling the tank for 24 hours, put 25 pds of gravel at bottom with a few fake plants and some big rocks and misc. ornaments. Used Amquel to treat water during that 24 hours and had a pet store check the water and everything was ok, ammonia levels, nitrite, nitrate, etc., before I put fish in. Then bought 5 fish, which was about the max for a 20 gallon new tank I am finding out. 1-was a Dalmatian molly I think, 1-just regular molly I guess, 1-swordtail, and 2-high fin platys and all are under 3inch in length. Everything was fine for the first 5-days, I was using the stress-Zyme and stress-coat, along with adding a little aquarium salt after the a few days. On the six day one of my platies, was not eating or really moving for that matter and stayed at the bottom of the tank by the aeration. He was breathing very rapidly. On the 8th day of the this new tank he was dead at the bottom. (Which of coarse, trying to be a good aquarist, immediately took my water in to the pet store for testing). Found that the ammonia levels were Extremely high. So did what they said and first bought some new filters for the whisper 20 along with some ammo-carb to add with the carbon that came with it and changed the filter as such. At the same time did a 25% water change with the gravel siphon per the store keeper. And used bottled water this time and still treated with the Amquel or however you spell it. Added a little more stress-Zyme and stress coat with the water change The water before the change was really cloudy and still is, but not quite as bad after the water change, but still cloudy so bought some water clear tablets and put them in the next day. The store keeper also informed me that I was probably overfeeding, and I think I was, so I am only feeding 1 time a day right now. Ok now 2-days after the water change the other platy was acting the same way. Yesterday or 3-days after the water change on this tank that has been set up for 12-days now, the other platy died. The weird part is that the other 3 fish are fine and healthy as far as I can see. But the water is still cloudy but not as bad and is slowly getting better. The last part of this story is: the water where I live is really hard and the ph is 7.6- 7.9. In which the store keeper told me not to even worry about ph or hardness since the fish were born and living in the same kind of water when I got them (also why I just bottled water when I did the water change. And lastly I added some plant butts on the 8th day and they are rooting and sprouting ok. Ok NOW MY questions. Sorry for the long story-line. 1-what else can I do about the cloudiness? <<Don't be so generous with all those additives. I mean... you're making quite the soup by constantly adding this and that to a 20g tank, which isn't really a lot of water.>> 2-am I doing anything wrong? <<I think so... first, you put in too many fish in there way too soon. The Nitrogen Cycle, takes many weeks to develop so that waiting 24 hours really wasn't enough. The mollies are tough customers, and are more able to live through the cycling of a new tank. The platies are pretty tough too, but perhaps more sensitive to ammonia.>> 3-when can I add more fish and how many? <<I would hold off for at least a couple of weeks and let this tank stabilize. Then perhaps one fish, but as you already stated you really can't have more than four fish in a 20g tank.>> 4-what would be your suggestion on the type of fish? <<Perhaps another platy? Keep in mind these can grow to the size of your forearm so... perhaps plan on a larger tank.>> 5-what else can I do to prevent anymore fish from dying that I am not already doing (note the 3-mollies I mentioned above seem to be ok and that is all that is in the tank now)? <<Well, the mollies are known for being especially tolerant of poor water conditions. If I were you, I'd slow down some, and try to take your time with this new tank. Good things come to those who wait.>> 6-How many fish can this tank finally hold with proper oxygen? <<Three or four - they need room to grow.>> And lastly can I leave the florescent light on for about 12 hours per day or is that bad. <<Shouldn't be a huge problem, but it will promote algae growth.>> And any other advise you can give please. So I thank you very much for your patients, reading and answering this. I know I can trust your advise and thank you once again in advance for your help. <<Yes, please check out this article on WetWebMedia, I think you will find it helpful: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwtips4beginners.htm >> Sincerely ~John <<Cheers, J -- >>

Freshwater Lighting Hi Robert, <Steven Pro in today.> I am new to the aquarium hobby, and I'm doing research on tank set-up, equipment, fish, etc. I am interested in finding out about lighting options, in particular the blue light (actinic I think it's called). I would like to give my 72 gallon, freshwater, fish only aquarium a blue look. However, I don't want it to look too "blue". I'm trying to strike a balance between enhancing my fish's colors, and making the aquarium aesthetically pleasing to my personal taste. From what I've read, I need to have approximately 12 watts of light - per 12 inches of tank width (which equals 40 watts on my tank). Is my wattage calculation accurate? <I do not follow your math, but a 40 watt light would work fine on a 72 gallon bowfront tank.> And do you see any reason blue lighting would not be appropriate? <Many freshwater fish look their best with a little red light in the spectrum. Many fish-only freshwater lamps have a pink tinge for these purposes.> Also, I'm trying to do this as inexpensively as possible, without sacrificing quality of course. Do you have any suggestions for my lighting choices (given the criteria I've mentioned)? <A single 48" 40 watt fixture would be fine and reasonably priced.> I was thinking I made need to purchase a white light and a blue light, to achieve the affect I'm looking for. Unless there are bulbs that combine the two? <Many lamps that combine different color wavelengths to derive a complete color.> Thank you so much for your time, expertise and consideration of my inquiry. Charlene <The easiest thing is to go to a good LFS and find a tank that is nicely lit and ask what they are using. -Steven Pro>

Filtration Formula? Greetings, <<And greetings to you. JasonC here... >> I just got a 125 gallon set-up with the following; 1 Fluval 404 hooked to one undergravel filter plate 2 802 power heads each hooked to one undergravel filter plate 2 Penguin 303. I added up the gph and got 1777gph. This seems like a lot since the tank water would be cycled 14.2 times an hour! However I do realize that the gph given by the manufacturer is "free flow". <<For certain, a better phase might be, "Your mileage may vary.">> I have a couple of questions: 1. Is there a standard formula for calculating how much filtration to put on a freshwater tank or does it vary with fish type (cichlids)? <<If there were, I wouldn't endorse it. Your example of the cichlid is a good one, and I am reminded of many, many Oscars I have seen as single fish in an under-filtered tank. I say it all depends on what you want to keep.>> 2. Can a tank be over filtered? <<Again, this is subjective. In my opinion, it's not that easy to do, but certain species that prefer low-flow conditions would be stressed by life in a high-flow, high-filtration tank.>> Thank you Joe Schafer <<Cheers, J -- >>

filter system for 125 gallon fresh water tank Sir, I recently got a 125 gallon tank that is a real move up from the 35 gallons I am used to. I realize that my filtration needs will be different, but am unsure what I should be doing. I plan to have 2-3 good sized Oscars in the tank with no plans at present to try live plants. Any suggestions? Peter Hughes <If you can afford it, I would strongly urge you to consider a trickle filter. It is the best possible filtration for your intended fish and it makes maintenance very easy. -Steven Pro>

Lighting recommendations I bought a freshwater aquarium of 30 gal. I want to know what is the best kind of light that I may have to use to hold ornamental fish and some plants. I you can send me some links about this matter it will be great. <Please peruse the Freshwater and Planted Aquarium subwebs of our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ and the linked files, FAQs therein on these topics, particularly/starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm Bob Fenner> Tanks in advance for your recommendation Jose Mejia

New FW Tank Setup I ordered a 55g 20" Acrylic. Now I need to build the stand, then order everything else. Fresh Water. Community of Gourami with variety of bottom specimens (Kuhli Loach, Corys) Algae eating shrimp. Maybe some small blue Rainbows. Still deciding on top / mid fish to augment Gouramis. Moderate amount of live plants. Anyway, Wet/Dry is expensive & I'm told not so great with plants, or needed. Since BigAlsOnline is so cheap, I was going to get an Eheim 2227 with 277gph canister wet/dry. It's a little strange though? Then, I was going to go with a simpler Eheim 2026 251gph "Pro-II" canister. Now, an online hobbyist says that is too expensive and too much flow for my 55g tank.  <I disagree strongly on the point of too much flow> He said to get the Eheim 2217 simple canister with 164gph and 1 gallon media. *What do you recommend as the BEST filter for my tank to be? <so many choices... but if you can afford the larger Eheim, that is my recommendation. Hard to have too much flow or too much filtration> *Also, would the Custom Sealife "BriteLite" compact fluorescent 2x65Watt be overkill? It's expensive at $150 with bulbs. <that really depends on the needs of the plants that you will be keeping. Still... a nice fixture> Thanks, Matt. <best regards, Anthony>

Cycling a New Goldfish Tank Hey I have a question--I want to hurry and get my two golds out of a tiny 8 gallon with only a cotton wool and charcoal filter. <Ok> I have a new 29 gallon with an Eclipse filter/hood setup and was wondering if I could simply take the Biowheel out of the new Eclipse--stick it down in the gold fish tank--ok the golds would be a little more crowded, and let bacteria grow on it--and then after a week or so pop it into the new 29 and have instant biological filtration--and move the fish into the new tank at the same time. Would this work? <Not very well. Better to move the fish and the old filter over to the new tank and then after two months, remove the old filter.> I have a spanking new tank and I have heard you can use rocks from the established tank--to speed cycling--or part of the cotton wool from the 8 gallon filter could be put in the Eclipse hood maybe where the filter pad goes? But I kind of like the idea of seeding the Eclipse Biowheel--what do you think. <Moving the gravel would help some too.> Can I add the fish when I add the Biowheel or do I have to artificially feed the bacteria ammonia and then test the water etc. I am still vague on all this cycling business-my fish have already spent too much time in a tiny tank that I have to change water in twice a week--and I have never been sure I'm not killing too much of the beneficial bacteria when I clean the cotton wool--I try to replace some of it and quickly rinse the rest. <Do read up some on the various articles on WWM. Start here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm> If I can't do this idea please explain how I do the long process--some say 4-6 weeks--hate to wait that long first I dechlorinate the water--then I add some gravel or other stuff from the established tank--then what--when do I add the ammonia and how often--how much? etc. any help you can give me would be most appreciated. <See above notes.> Thanks, Karen <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Fish Tank Set up Questions Dear Mr. Fenner, I have wanted a fresh water aquarium for 20 years and now (finally!) am in the process of assembling the components. I have consulted with local pet shop keepers and read articles on line as well as books but am finding a lot of conflicting information "out there." Your web site is very extensive and informative so I thought I'd quit lurking and ask a few questions. So far this is the equipment I have purchased: 29 gal Top fin tank and light, a stand specifically for that size aquarium, Penguin 170 filter, 150 watt titanium heater (a little overkill perhaps ? but electricity, glass and water make me nervous), outside stick-on thermometer, various fake plants, 25# natural gravel, test kit (for ammonia, nitrate, pH and hardness), siphon "vacuum", Stresszyme and Stresscoat. Questions: 1. I called the water authorities in my town and they told me that they treat our tap water with chloramines. Local pet store folk said all I need to treat the tap water with is Stresszyme and Stresscoat and I am good to go. Now I am wondering if this is truly good for the potential fish (haven't bought any yet) or do these products just cover up latent toxicity? There are a zillion products out there that make a lot of claims - what would you use to treat this kind of tap water? <I do not believe Stress Coat is effective against chloramines. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals makes another product for that called Ammo Lock 2 or Kordon's Amquel or something else. Anything that is a water conditioner that specifically says treat chlorine and chloramine.> 2. I haven't set up the tank yet. One book said to put a layer of Styrofoam under the tank - is this helpful/necessary? <Helpful for self leveling and heat retention, but not necessary, somewhat unsightly.> Am trying to abide by the "Kiss principle" and hoping to avoid conditions that will create problems. I was going to set up tank and let it run for a week or so without fish so it can sort of settle in. Now I wonder if this will actually help the cycle process or anything else. <Anything over two days is not really doing anything. By that time, you can usually get the heater dialed in, maintain a constant temperature, and achieve maximum dissolved oxygen.> I have waited a long time, am willing to wait some more if it will help matters (i.e. healthy fish, best foot forward for stable clear water, etc.). <You are best to add your fish very slowly and monitor ammonia and nitrite closely for the first several months. Be patient and add no more than six inches of fish per month.> 3. I think our tap water is probably around pH 7 and with time, it sounds like the pH will decline a bit even with partial water changes. Buffering the water upward seems complicated and am hoping to avoid it if I can get a range of fish. I know I have to add fish slowly and realize they have pH preferences. <I prefer to use water changes and use of activated carbon to keep pH in line versus buffers.> I like to look at: Angel fish, tiger barbs, catfish (species that don't get too big) Betta's, fancy guppies (but not a whole tank full!), neons, hatchetfish - well, I am not fussy but graceful fins are a lure! I find them all interesting and soothing so I am open to suggestions. <Not a good mix at all.> A collection of different species at various levels are more appealing to me than a couple of monster fish. Will a neutral pH be OK for these fish? <Yes, but all these fish will not go together.> If a pH around 7 is OK for these sorts of fish - what fish on this list would you add first to get the tank going? Other ideas? I hear neons get eaten a lot. <Yes, neons get eaten a lot by tiger barbs and Angelfish.> Can Bettas coexist freely with other fish (I hate the little prisons on the side of tanks that they are displayed in pet stores but I have never seen them in a community type tank which makes me think there must be a reason.). <They are not terribly aggressive but their long fins give them problems in community tanks. They act as a giant sail to blow them around and also are very temping for fin nippers, like tiger barbs.> Thank you in advance for your response. I appreciate any guidance you care to offer. <The neons would go in with hatchetfish and Cory catfish. The rest are not great choices. We could help you put together a tank around one of your other choices, but this group had several of your wish list.> Best regards, Mary <Be chatting, Steven Pro>

Eheim 2128 Thermofilter I have several Eheim filters and I'm well pleased. I'm considering purchasing an Eheim 2128 Pro II Thermofilter. Anyone have any experience with this unit? I'm wondering how effective the heater actually is. Will be used for 60 gallon Discus along with Emperor 280, rock potted plants. Thanks, Wildriv <an excellent product and more than adequate for most applications.. however, the elevated temperature of the discus environment will make any single unit work very hard. Plus the sensitive nature (and great value) of the discus would definitely make a case for having a second separate heater in the system for security and to share the duty with the integrated unit. Best regards, Anthony>

Eheim 2128 Thermofilter Follow-up & UV Question Thanks so much! I was wondering if I shouldn't have a backup. Ebo Jager heaters are in all my other tanks and I'll go ahead and add one to the 60. One other question I'll trouble you with; I've purchased an Aqua 25 watt UV sterilizer with wiper (my first UV unit) and I'm planning on using the 2128 return side as the pump source. Any problem with plumbing in this fashion? -Wildriv <No, that is the preferred method, good filtration prior to water running through a UV sterilizer. Just make sure the flow rate of the canister filter is appropriate for the kill rate of the UV. -Steven Pro>

Freshwater Lighting Question Hi Robert, <Steven Pro this holiday afternoon.> Thank you for your help I have another question about lighting. As I mentioned before I am building a 90g tank 48Lx24Hx18D for fresh water would just a double lamp fluorescent be o.k. Any suggestions? <For a fish-only tank, that should be plenty of light to bring out the fish colors. Otherwise, it would depend on what else you wanted to grow; Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss, etc. vs. some of the high light demand red plants.> Thanks, Eric P.S. I would like to mount the lights to the top of my canopy. <That should not be a problem. -Steven Pro>

RE: Fish tank Set up Questions Dear Steven, Thanks so much for your fast response and advice. You guys run an amazing and helpful website. My only complaint is that it is now distracting me from work! <Tell me about it. Answering all these questions takes a good bit of time, but it is rewarding to be helping others.> Sounds like I have a lot of investigation ahead of me figuring out which fish to put in the tank. Do you have a favorite book or two that discusses which fish go together well (for a beginner)? I suppose this is mundane (considering what I have read about in your FAQ's) but I am now thinking of starting with Angelfish and working out from there. More reading is definitely in order... <Truthfully, I have very few freshwater books in my library. I will give you another source for valuable info though, local aquarium societies/clubs. These are great tools/resources for beginners to exploit. Look through the links page for various club homepages and ask your LFS's.> And one last question, what do you think about "fishless tank cycling"? As an ex-lab rat, I think that I can do the appropriate water monitoring and there doesn't seem like there is much to lose trying it except time. Pitfalls to this method in your view? <I have never done it myself, but it does work.> Happy trails, Mary <Have a nice day! -Steven Pro>

Lighting Freshwater I am trying to decide what to do about my lighting for a 90g fresh water not sure about live plants yet. I was going to go with a power compact 4x55w set up but would this be enough or should I go with a 4x96w just a little confused with all the different advice out there. Please Help! Thank You, Eric <the latter if you will be keeping plants. For FO, both will be quite attractive. Best regards, Anthony>

general questions that you may know... I'm a newbie.  <Welcome to our wonderful hobby> I have a 60 gal tank. Using a Whisper 60 + a Whisper 20. After a disastrous beginning, 2 out of my 8 original fish survived (a 3" Opaline Gourami, and a 7" Plecostomus) first through Off the charts ammonia, then off the charts nitrite - I let my tank go through its natural cycle and finally it finished. I took the water to my LFS and all was okay - I bought 6 neon tetras and 4 penguin tetras and 1 golden Gourami friend for my remaining Opaline. all seems well except now my ammonia (although in a safe range today) is climbing. I'm not sure how much to feed them all, <Please hold off, abstain from all feeding till your ammonia and nitrite are at zero, undetectable levels. Much more trouble here than from starvation. And do read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm re establishing biological cycling... though the piece is on marine systems, the same principles apply> and my Gouramis are so shy they seem to miss out on the feedings. I waver between crushing one or two fairly big fish food flakes into a billion bits once or twice a day - to throwing a brine "gumdrop" in there one day and not feeding the next. also every one in a while I'll through a 1/4 of a Plecostomus algae wafer in there (and those little tetra go after it all day). I'm really confuse about feeding. <No worries, need to be... they (the Gouramis) will learn in time to be more forthcoming> also I did a 40% (unintentional) water change a week after I got my new fish could that have thrown my tank out of kilter and is it going to go through a cycle again? I'd hate to have to put my fish through that AGAIN <You are correct here re the water change. Hold off on these for now, look into boosting, adding nitrifying bacteria as per the citation above> BUT....my main question is, I'm thinking using those de-ammoniating chips. I cant seem to find enough information on them to make an objective decision. and if I were to use them, how much should I use in my filters for a tank my size. <These might be of some use, but it would be better to delve into adding biological conversion capacity> I'd like to mention that this tank belonged to a person who was no longer interested in this hobby, but he had several larger fish in the tank, and the only filtering system in there was power head with a collector on it. I cant figure out how those fish were all living in there. <Adaptation, tolerance. Most aquatic life is much tougher than folks realize.> best regard, Nellie <My mothers name! Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia.com>

Re: Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# O.K., I lied. I have another question. <There usually are.> What type of filtration system would you recommend for an 120 gallon tank? My pet shop is telling me a wet/dry is probably the best, however, the filter and the pump for such a system is very expensive. Any suggestions or recommendations? Any specific models or brands you can recommend? -Travis <The wet/dry would be the best option, but as you noted, it is expensive. I like Tenecor trickle filters, but there are many other good brands out there. Also, Mag-Drive pumps by Supreme are fairly inexpensive and reliable. If you decide against the wet/dry, the good, old undergravel filter run with powerheads and supplemented by power filters is OK. I prefer Hagen and Aquarium Systems powerheads and Hagen, Emperor, and Whisper power filters all have their pluses. -Steven Pro>

Re: Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# You guys are going to kill me but I'm so close to have this all wrapped up (and getting out of your hair). I currently have a Magnum 350 Canister filter from my 55 gallon tank along with an Emperor Bio Wheel power filter (it has 4 active carbon cartridges in it and two bio wheels). That being said, would the following filter system be adequate for a 120 gallon tank (assuming 5-7 Piranhas in the tank): Magnum 350 Canister (would use the Micron cartridge only for mechanical filtration) Emperor Bio Wheel power filter (for chemical and biological filtration) Undergravel filter with 2 power heads (for biological and some mechanical filtration) -Travis <Sounds OK. Use two large powerheads capable of 300 gph each or more. -Steven Pro>

Re: Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# One more question for you guys (your guys are awesome by the way)... <thank you... and only half of us are on drugs> how much gravel should a person have in an 125-150 gallon tank? I've been to several sites and they all say different things. A few say "at least 3" of gravel"  <yes. if using an undergravel filter> and a few say no more than 1/4"... <yes...if NOT using an undergravel filter> that's quite a difference in opinions. I've also read that for a tank this large you should definitely have an underground filter <not necessary...labor intensive but reliable if maintained well> and yet others say stay away from them if you can avoid it...especially if you're going to have Cichlids. What's a guy to believe? <if keeping cichlids with UG filters, you must add a layer of plastic mesh just an inch below the surface because they dig and disrupt filter function. I do not recommend an UG filter with cichlids...you would be mush better served by a wet/dry trickle filter or two large canister filters and a bunch of lava rock in-tank instead> Travis <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# One more question and I swear I'm done! <no worries, goombah> If I'm setting up a freshwater tank, is it necessary I use Reverse Osmosis water?  <Likely no...may even be harmful to some hard water species> I'm being told by my local fish store that it's the "only" water I should use... <be careful of heeding such absolute statements> especially in our city because the water is so hard (it's rated 20 grains on water hardness). I've read that RO water is too pure for freshwater fish.  <correct(!) if pure R/O for all but the softest water fishes> Which is true? <your decision to mix R/O with your hard water or not depends on the needs of the species of fish you wish to keep. If you like South American soft water cichlids (Discus/Angels, e.g.) then do use some R/O... but if you want hard water Africans, enjoy the blessing of your hard tap water> Travis <regards, Anthony>

Re: Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# So if I'm looking at filling this tank with Piranhas or Cichlids (like Oscars) my hard water should be just fine? <actually will be fine for normal maintenance...but not natural. Both are South American and like med to very soft (the piranha) water. Only necessary for breeding them, however> Travis <do relax, bud. These species are very hardy and not at all picky. Anthony>

lighting big, deep freshwater tank, coldwater anemones, pond birds! Hiya Bob, Long time no see. Some of my Texas friends seem to think I know everything, little do they know that I keep your address handy. A nursing home in Tyler TX. has a 2,000 gal tank.  <Wow, doubles as a swimming pool?> the water depth is 42 in.. It used to be an African Cichlid tank but they are now hot for live plants, namely giant val., crinum and anubias. The question was lighting. I've never seen a lighted aquarium that deep. What would you suggest ? <Overhead skylights... and some metal halide pendants... likely 400 watt size> 2nd. question, Are cold water anemones available , or must I jump in the water myself ?  <Oh, they are or at least used to be... Tealia, Metridium species... even Anthopleuras were collected off our coast, and still are by/for public aquariums. I would contact Chris Bruenner at Quality Marine (will cc him here) re where you might be able to procure these> Harry Wagner [AquaLife Tx, ] Thanks Look at my back yard visitor. <Mmm, I do appreciate Herons, Kingfishers et al. fish-eating wildlife... When they're not eating my fishes! Bob Fenner>

Cold Water Set Up - Changing the filter Dear Mr. Fenner, <Hi there> a friend of mine has just given me his entire cold water set up, comprising one goldfish, two mountain minnows and a butterfly plec in about 20 litres of water. he's quite laid back about how to keep them, but I want to do a good job of it (I'm fairly new to all this). one thing that concerns me is the age of the filter, but I'm told it is a tricky business replacing it so what I have in mind is to do some small water changes over the next several weeks, filtering the "waste" water in a separate tank (I'm fortunate to have two filtration motors or whatever they are called). I'm hoping I can, in this way, take the new filter sponge fully through its cycle before introducing it to the tank. can you let me know (a) if this is a sound approach, (b) how long it will take and (c) anything I have to watch out for. <This is indeed a sound approach, that will take about two weeks, and you might want to read up about "nitrogen cycling" and such on WetWebMedia.com and procure some simple test kits. Do contact me when/if you have concerns, questions. Bob Fenner> many thanks, Dan Papworth, Cardiff

Addiction to New Hobby <Greeting new fish friend> Ugh. I'm finding it very hard to find basic info without needing a specialized dictionary. :-) I have inherited a fish tank from a friend and want to do right by its occupants.  <admirable... empathy is a good trait in life and fishkeeping specifically> I have had it for over one year now and am slowly becoming addicted to the hobby. I have lost all but one of the original fish; <kudos to you!> a 7-8 inch id shark. I am looking for some compatible room-mates and would like to include a small school of some sort. I have two comets but they can stay or go as I am not too attached to them. <best not to mix with tropicals... find a new home for them> I have managed to keep some java fern which are propagating) and some corkscrew val. I also have an interesting piece of submerged wood. I like a more natural look. I am wondering about some fragments of " coral " I have. They are clear, ice-like, and disintegrate over time. What are they adding to the water? Are they beneficial or no? <calcium carbonate... acting as a buffer... only desirable if you keep hard water fishes> The tank is about 33litres and it has a Dynaflo 3 filter that hangs off the back. I do 20% H2O changes every 5 to 10 days <excellent!> and add aqua plus each time ( one cap full ). I also add Plant gro NPK every second or third change. <as you wish and see fit> am wondering about waste control and cycle ( the beneficial bacteria stuff). Twice a day I feed both flakes and pellets and frozen blood worm the odd time. <add some other assorted frozen foods for the fish too... glass worms, plankton/daphnia, etc)> last inquiry is in regards to the filter, How often do I change/ clean it?  <what kind of model/cartridges? Most rinsed once or twice monthly in about to be discarded waste/tank water... no tap water to kill good bacteria. Change carbon/cartridges once every 4-6 weeks approximately> Thanks so much for your time, I expect this will not be the last time you hear from me. <good to hear from you! Anthony Calfo>

Tank Filtration Hey Robert, <Irene... good buddy Anthony Calfo here in Bob's stead while he stars in a (way) off-Broadway musical revival of Welcome Back Kotter! My heavens, Bob does look just like John Travolta in the right light!> I have a few questions about filtration for my two tanks. <shoot> I am trying to decide what sort of tank to set up for my goldfish and have my eye on an Eclipse II system--are you familiar with this type of filtration--Biowheel and filter cartridge with carbon in the hood assembly with a uptake tube and pump hanging down in the tank. <indeed...novel concept, but perhaps not ideal for Goldfish which are likely to feed on low-protein (less digestible) and are inclined to outgrow most tanks> I have one of the smaller Eclipse hoods on a 15 gallon freshwater tank--with some small fish but am concerned about perhaps needing extra filtration for a goldfish tank. <ahh yes, agreed> Anything would be an improvement on what I have now--an old fashioned charcoal and cotton wool box with one air stone connected to a small Whisper air pump--the fish are still small and only in a 10 gallon tank, and I want to move them as quickly as possible --as the water needs replacing more often then I would like. I love the look of the Eclipse--very easy on the eyes but wonder if anyone has ever reviewed this system in conjunction with goldfish? <I'm sure many have...although I'm nit so sure it still wasn't a bit of work to maintain> If the system can handle the extra ammonia and nitrites from the golds--I want to go ahead with this system. <many ways to filter... but why don't you consider a good canister filter like a Fluval...perhaps with a course prefilter sponge on the intake (rinsed regularly) for extended maintenance of unit> My 55 gallon is also going to get a filtration upgrade--I have an older undergravel filter system with one powerhead attached to a Rena air pump and a Hot Magnum external filter on the back now--and intend to purchase a Rena Filstar XP 2 soon. My question is can I get rid of the undergravel filter with the new system?  <eventually and gradually or more abrupt with aggressive water changes for the first week> Will the biological portion of the XP 2 be enough without having to maintain the undergravel system as well? <is the UG filter causing you any grief? If you can get away with monthly maintenance on it...the more filtration the better in this case> I have found good reviews for this system and am hoping it will be as quiet as advertised--do you have any input on this one? <no personal experience with this one... will call out to other readers for feedback> Thank you, Any help you can give me would be most appreciated--I have been looking all over for reviews on these two products to make my decision and want to move on these purchases soon. Sincerely, Karen McCollam <keep an eye on the Q&A section too for follow-ups. Best regards, Anthony

Aquarium safe paint? I just recently purchased a large castle for my freshwater aquarium. My husband dropped it and the front of it had gotten badly scraped. Could you tell me what I could paint over the scrape so it's not so noticeable? It's brand new and ruined. Thank you so much, <no worries... fully cured tub and tile paint will do the trick. When dry... rinse and soak the ornament in a bucket of water for a day if it will make you feel better <smile> but not really necessary. These two part epoxies are OK if they say that they are baby safe after curing and made for wet (sink/tub) applications. Limited color choices though. Kindly, Anthony>

New 125 Gallon Freshwater Tank I'm starting a 125 gal freshwater tropical tank and need some advice. What should I use for filtration? <A good old fashioned undergravel filter with powerheads is good if you are dedicated to doing routine maintenance.> Canister? <There are many good canisters filter on the market. It would take probably at least two large units to filter your tank. Do not completely trust the manufacturer's labels in regards to how big a tank one will filter. Bigger is better in this case. Two units rated for 100 gallons would be good.> Though I've heard good things about an Emperor 400 bio wheel filter. Or maybe use two smaller ones in different spots? <If you want to use the Emperor 400, get three of them.> How many fish should I put in the start the cycling? <You can add about 20 small fish to start with. Do not add any more until you watch the ammonia and nitrite go up and then come back down to zero.> Will I need an air pump? <Can be useful.> Also, as far as heaters go, should I use one or two on opposite ends? <Two on opposite ends in the 250-300 watt range each.> I think I have everything else covered, but any advice would be appreciated. <Read, read, read.> <http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWtopicsHP.htm> Thanks, David <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

tank (used, with new, unfamiliar aquarists...) Hi Robert my sons got a second hand tank from a friend who doesn't want it. He gave them a filter and some decorations. I never owned an aquarium and I'm learning with this one I filled the tank after cleaned it and star the filter some of the fish died I DON'T KNOW what I did wrong right there two weeks later I took 2 gallons of water and add two gallons of tap water all the fish look wear the have white dot every where some died. <Yikes...> The water and all the decoration turned yellow. I place the fish in a big container with the same water. I empty the tank and wash every thing I fill it up to star again sure I let the water set for how long? before add the fish again. Can you help me with the basic to star an aquarium? I notice people asking you about pH and other thing that I don't know understand it. I appreciate your help my kids are really happy about this aquarium but they get broken heart every time some of the fish died. I'M TRYING to learned but I don't to sacrifice the fish in the way. THANK YOU. <No more livestock... for now. Please read through our principal site: WetWebMedia.com under Set-Up for what type of aquarium... Bob Fenner>

Re: Freshwater tank set up Can I use seashells? I also have a conk shell that has been sitting around the house for over 30 years? <Mmm, the "shinier" types of shells are better than "chalky" type ones... Please tell me what sorts of livestock you want/intend to keep, and some general qualities of your source/tap water... Both are important in trying to figure out how hard, alkaline the systems water will be, become... and whether this is acceptable to beneficial to the life you will keep. Bob Fenner>

Re: Freshwater tank set up > <Mmm, the "shinier" types of shells are better than "chalky" type ones... > Please tell me what sorts of livestock you want/intend to keep, and some > general qualities of your source/tap water... Both are important in trying > to figure out how hard, alkaline the systems water will be, become... and > whether this is acceptable to beneficial to the life you will keep. Bob I have Natural Well Water, which tests quite acidic around 6.1 fresh from the tap. <Yikes... even after it sets for an hour or so? Do you add anything, like baking soda to it?> The aquarium will house primarily Angle Fish. I have two breeding tanks that are absent of any decor. Just fish filters heaters, and they have been quite productive. But I want to decorate this new tank, for the non-breeding ones, I may also get a couple of clown loaches. Thank you for your time. Nadia <Sounds good... would likely elevate the pH as mentioned above for the loaches... and store, adjust new water for water changes going forward. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater tank set up (toxic decor) I am in the process of setting up a new 35 gallon freshwater tank for angle fish. I purchased some coral and starfish shells for decoration. Put all in a bleach bath, but the stars floated.  <Yikes... am glad they did... so that you wrote here instead of placing them in the tank... these decorations are NOT for freshwater systems...> I then rinsed all and placed in the tank, but have not added fish yet. after about 24 hours the tank got a very strong fishy smell. I removed the starfish which are now waterlogged and returned to the bleach bath, for several hours. after 12 hours the smell was gone from the tank. I have not introducer any fish as yet, nor have I replaced the star fish shells. My question is will it be safe for my fish if I return the star shells to the tank?  <No, sorry to state, you should remove all these sea-skeletons from your tank, and thoroughly clean it out and re-set it up. Please read through this link: WetWebMedia.com re freshwater systems, planted tanks...> Or is there something else I need to do to prepare the shells so that they will be safe? or can I not use them at all? <Ahh, here we go. Yes, do not use these at all. They will negatively effect the water chemistry, at least partially poisoning, weakening your livestock. Look to other, more suitable freshwater decor materials. We'll be chatting. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Nadia

Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# Robert: I just ran across your site through hours of research on setting up a new freshwater tank. You have a great site but I have to tell you I'm still confused on what exactly it takes to set up a "perfect" freshwater tank.  <I need to write many of these pieces> Seems like every site I find says something different. Here is what I have set up so far and would just like to know if I'm on the right track or not. I'm planning on having 5-6 Red Belly Piranhas. Thanks! 55 gallon freshwater (filled with deoinized water - used Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Tap Water Filter for "perfect aquarium water" - used the appr. electrolyte additive as per their directions - used this because I was told the water in my city was very hard and the only water I should even consider using outside of this filter water is reverse osmosis water -  <Deionized should work... but do check on the water quality the Piranha are coming from, at least the shipping water... and "meet them at least halfway" in terms of hardness, pH> again, I'm not sure what to believe) Submersible 200 watt heater - water is at 80 degrees 2 1/2 inches of gravel (no underground filter, however) Emperor 400 Bio-Wheel filter system (has 2 bio wheels) that also has 4 carbon cartridges in it Magnum 350 Canister filter - only using this as a mechanical filter (not using carbon in it) Not using any air pumps/airstones (should I???) <Yes. These characiform fishes need high dissolved oxygen... and eighty degrees F. is hard to keep optimal> The pH is at 7.6 and for the life of me I can't get it to the "recommended ph level" for Piranhas, which is suppose to be between 6.4 - 6.8 I've added every pH adjusting chemical under the sun and nothing happens. <It's likely your natural gravel... the alkaline reserve that is part of it dissolving... changing/buffering your pH up. Do get/use an alkalinity test kit, and adjust with sodium phosphate, perhaps try live plants to get nearer to neutral (7)> I want to get the pH to the appropriate level before I introduce the new fish to the tank. More importantly, if I'm struggling now to get the pH to the right level, how will I get the pH level adjusted appropriately when I do my regular 25% water changes? <Pre-make and store the replacement water> Maybe I'm trying to hard with this new hobby but it seems to me there has to be an easier way to get this going. Please help! Thanks! Frustrated and very confused, Travis <Much to discuss. Do make a checklist of items, concerns and we'll talk them over one by one till you're satisfied with your plan. Serrasalmines are quite tolerant, will do well in your care. Bob Fenner>

Re: Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# Robert: You're the best! For the first time in over two weeks of trying to get this aquarium set up, I feel like there's hope to get this all figured out.  <Certainly there is> Thanks a ton! Everything you replied with was straight forward but I do have a couple follow up questions and I should be good to go. Considering all the pH adjusting chemicals I've added, is there any harm being done to the water in the tank? <Likely not... imagine a "Tums" commercial or an old vinegar and baking soda "jar experiment" from your youth... acid-base reactions mainly yield salts and water... No problems> Are alkalinity test kits and sodium phosphate easy to find - are these "common" fish store products or do I need to look elsewhere?  <Common. Should be at your LFS> Is sodium phosphate something I'll need to add on a regular basis or is it mostly used initially to "reset" the pH buffering of the water?  <Mmm, time to send you to source that will clear up the relationship between these two phenomena: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acidalkph.htm Nicking away the buffering capacity, aka alkaline reserve in a given volume of water eventually lowers its pH...> Finally (and thanks for your patience and help on all this), is the "Tap Water Filter" necessary? <No, in most cases tap/source water is fine> Seems if I use my regular tap water with the appropriate water conditioners that remove chlorine etc. and if I use sodium phosphate I should be fine (the water filter cartridges aren't exactly cheap and they're a pain to work with as I only get about 10 gallons with each filter). Thanks and have happy new year!!! Travis <Keep in touch my friend, tell me/us about your progress, adventures. Bob Fenner>

Re: Is setting up a freshwater aquarium really this hard?!@# Robert: Thanks so much for everything. I will definitely keep you posted. <Real good. Be chatting. Bob Fenner> Travis

Crushed coral in freshwater? Hello Mr. Fenner, A friend of mine has been sold crushed coral for his 110gal. new freshwater setup. He plans on breeding some expensive African cichlids and was told by this shop owner that coral was the best way to raise his PH to over 8. <Mmm, one way, yes... depending on your water composition...> We live outside Houston and our PH is naturally around 7.5 to 7.8. <For what sorts, species of Africans? It might be worthwhile to investigate other components of your source water... Malawi, Tanganyikan, other large African bodies of water have, for instance, some differing salt compositions... worth augmenting in some cases... but a pH in the mid to upper sevens is great for (lazy folks) like me for "batch processing" large water changes for health, reproduction of these fishes...> I told my friend that coral in freshwater will decompose and eventually raise his ammonia level. I also told him that there was better & safer products to accomplish his goals, but I can't remember what they are called. <Hmm... well he can dedicate himself to very regular gravel vacuuming (weekly)... but/and many commercial breeders of these cichlids use no substrate at all... relying on the buffering (alkaline) capacity of the water, changes... to avoid the symptoms you list> Did I give my friend good advice? He is also considering seashells in his tank for his future shell-dwellers. His filter system is a wet/dry & Eheim canisters. Thank you very much for your time. Steve Tilotta <Much to chat about. Let's get more specific with what species he intends to produce, the number, size, shape of the systems... if they're to be tied together. Please have your friend contact me, or you relate these facts. Take a read through the Centralized and Flow-Through Filtration pieces: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cntfiltbiz.htm on our site. Bob Fenner>

foam (background DIY projects) Mr. Fenner- I'm not terribly versed in the world of aquaria but I would like to set up a freshwater tank, 55 gal. <Help is available> I saw in a local pet store a 3D backdrop made out of a soft foam. The prices were ridiculous so I'm thinking of trying to do one myself. Would you have any idea what type of foam is okay in a freshwater tank? <Actually... outside. I've tried to make such dioramas myself over the years... Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aquascaping.htm ... you can make some really neat ones with mirrors, fiberglass/resin... or melted down styrofoam... painted, lighted. There are some chemically inert internal backgrounds that are absolutely gorgeous for larger tanks... some are quite pricey. Please give the Freshwater Index of our site a read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWtopicsHP.htm and... we'll be chatting. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your help. -Shelley

Amphibians in aquarium? and freshwater plenums, anemone questions I was skimming over your site again; this time the fresh water section and I saw the amphibian part. <Yikes... yes, another "section" started... to fit a few incoming FAQs... that needs/deserves serious/non-serious "skull sweat"... input, imagery...> There's only a little about aquatic frogs so I was wondering if you could help me with something else. Could you put Axolotls in an aquarium with fish? <Hmm, yes... have seen these neotenic salamanders placed, kept with peaceful fishes in private, public aquariums> I've got 2 in a 20g upright with no heater or anything for filtration, there are 3 Cory cats in there too they're doing great but I was wondering if I could set up my 180 as a freshwater-tropical and put them in? <Not so much tropical... Though my fave hobby sites for Ambystoma: http://www.fortunecity.com/roswell/chupacabras/4/calixto.htm states they can/will live at 75F... I would use this as an "upper limit" temperature wise.> Is there an average temp that the fish and axolotls will tolerate together? I know cannibalism could be a problem with smaller tetras but I'm willing to take that risk. Also; have you ever heard of using a plenum in a fresh water system? <Yes, have even done this... for decades...> How well would/does it work? are there draw backs?  <Same sort of arrangement as marine... an hypoxic water area on the bottom (good to have a drain arrangement for here...), a grade or two of media above separated by a screen (I put soil mix in under the screen with coarser gravel...). Downsides: some chance of anaerobiosis...> My saltwater plenum works great but there is quite a bit of Cyanobacteria lately (the tank's a year old), is that an issue in a fresh water tank? <A possibility... but with regular "good" maintenance, use of live plants... a calculated risk...> my last question is in regards to my anemone. I bought it as a "corn" anemone. It's Bright green with orange tips and it's bubbled (just like a bulb anemone) but I haven't seen any bulbs anemones with this coloration. It's scientific name started with R., so it definitely wasn't labeled as e. quadricolor.  <Mmm, maybe a "Radianthus" species, or one that is labeled as such... Please take a look through our general coverage of Anemones: http://wetwebmedia.com/anemones.htm ... You may see this species, and find that Clowns will pair up with ones that they don't do naturally in captivity...> My maroon lives in it too. And one more -sorry-. What's normal growth rate for anemones? This one's almost doubled its size in 2 months (I feed silver sides too) it's also got funny division around the tentacles; some are splitting up to 4 times on each one. Is that normal. <Normal under highly favorable conditions... or it may be this specimen was/is "just expanding"... get squeezed down for shipping...> Sorry for the length. Your advice is appreciated as always. Dustin <Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

Thin Walled Fish Bowl hello, I recently purchased a cylindrical fish bowl dimensions height 24 cm. diameter 24cm and a wall thickness of 2mm, after a week the bowl began to leek, this was due to a crack in the base which was not there when I purchased the bowl. on returning the bowl to the shop it was actually a vase for flowers not a fish bowl. would the volume and weight of the water cause the vase to crack? <You are likely correct.... used to be that many folks sold these sorts of beautiful thin-walled glass containers... And they are definitely not made to handle the weight, stress of being filled with water. Bob Fenner> thank you regards Andy

jewel aquariums I am very interested in Jewel aquariums and literature.  <sic, Juwel en/in Deutschen?> I have three aquariums and am looking for other examples and have a couple partial photocopied catalogs. Has anyone reproduced these catalogs?  <Good question... maybe Dr. Robert Rofen of Kordon/Novalek and the Aquatic Research Center's huge collection of ephemera, business materials (as well as scientific and hobbyist)... they along with the company (of Germany) would be the best first places to look> Anyone have catalogs that they might photocopy for me at my cost? Did you know Sam Robbins (now deceased) who reproduced Jewel aquariums and had the original catalogs? <Oh! You know what? I'm confused here. Do contact Gary Bagnall of Zoo-Med Laboratories. Use the Net or a recent pet-fish or herptile mag for their Calif. address... he has some of these tanks, their catalogs, even reproductions for sale> His brother supposedly sold off all the aquarium related stuff but I have no idea of how to contact him as the old phone number has been taken over by a guy in the antique cash register business which was Sam's primary business and he only knows what I have just related to you. Know of any tanks for sale other that the Queen that Gary has?  <Man! I've got to start reading my mail before responding to it. Yes, do know of these, have some of the listings, from long ago associations in "The Collectors of Aquarium Literature" group we were all part of (a whole dozen of us> I can't believe how hard it is to find these aquariums! Saw my first one in Chicago in 1978 and didn't buy it...it haunted me ever since until I got two within a short time of each other. One locally in Redlands, California and the other from a collector in Chicago. Any help would be appreciated! <They are around... in storage... just have to keep looking. Be chatting my historical aquaristic friend. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Setup Questions Hello, I've been pouring over countless aquarium sites, faqs, fish pages, plant pages and whatnot and have found your site to be very informative about the generalities on most fronts. (As in, these plants do well, these fish do well - its a very well rounded site) Out of every other site I've seen with Faqs, you're the only one I'm bothering to email. <Thank you for this... Yes to WWM being designed to be a "general to specifics" self-directing tool for husbandry information, inspiration...> I've always wanted an aquarium, and have had them off and on every now and again. I've had a Plecostomus and tetras along with lots of fair won goldfish. (lil buggers died, but I'm rather adept at catching the local snakes, so they got treated :) ) The tetras faired the best, lasting well over a year in a very very small tank (a gallon, tops) with close to 70% of the space taken up by elodea. (Convinced the plants were magic, I've decided I want live easy to care for plants in the setup I plan on having at college) <Good erudition, and memory evident here> At home, my tap water is from a well, unchlorinated, and very hard and slightly acidic.  <Unusual combination... would have this tested for human and pet-fish use sakes> (going by the tongue test, acidic water tastes better heh.. hence soda is ph 4 or something) At college, where I plan on having a 10 gallon setup, the water is soft, and more neutral (tongue test again, I have done pH tests before on water I've tasted, so I do have a vague idea of what I'm talking about) Concern is, there are times when I can SMELL the chemicals in the water. Its smells a lot like chlorine, but not quite (maintained a pool, so I know what chlorine smells like). <Yes, likely the sanitizer is this (or in the US chloramine)... both can be easily removed with water-treatment chemicals or storing new water for a week or more> My basic plan is to get a tank, fill it with water (it will be from the water available at the college, and I haven't found anything that would give guidelines for prepping the water, other than adding dechlorinator) toss in some plants, maybe some snails (most likely they'll come with the plants, according to everyone else's website), and later maybe some fish. This isn't a temperature controlled environment, so ideally the setup should be able to withstand temperatures up to 80F. I can use a heat system to keep it up above 70 the rest of the time.. I also want it to be interesting, something I'll actually be entertained by enough to remember to feed during exam week. Originally I was going to dump a catfish from a pond in and feed it goldfish, but that's become unfeasible... (but it IS college, so I could still probably feed goldfish to my roommate hehe) <Hmm,> The less maintenance the better, and one violent carnivores aquatic creature is better than a dozen tetras swimming around in circles. (also, ideally freshwater, not brackish, though adding small amounts of aquarium salt is an option - and fish are peaceful and soothing, and a dozen tetras swimming around in circles will probably lure girls in to see them, prompting well cared for happy little tetras) <I think I see where you're going here> I also want it somewhat self sustaining (minimal water changes, say 2 gallons every two weeks or something, and enough living things swimming around to feed on if I get negligent), and was looking to making a thick "forest" of plants towards one side so that little edibles could hide and maybe breed, such as daphnia or snails. For snail eaters, I've heard Golden Cichlid and Puffer.  <Well, steer clear of these... too much trouble in a ten gallon with what else you want to do...> I also saw a Dragon Fish (violet goby) that looked cool - lady said it'd eat small fish. (it had beady little eyes, on further inspection, the ugly brute eats plankton and small shrimp, but he's a lazy brute and gets too big for a 10 gallon) If the fish DOES get to big for a ten gallon by summer, there is a 55 available. I've also heard good things about Red Clawed Crabs. <No really to both... > The tank will probably have about a week if not more of just plants (maybe snails, who knows) before any fish are even courted for purchase. Any advice? (you claim to enjoy Latin names better, finding out what common names are from Latin names is relatively easy for me, vs. finding out that the pet store is selling marine crabs as freshwater snails..) -Matt (sorry its long) <Not really a liking for Lingua Latina so much as for a desire for clarity. Do deal with folks from disparate areas and backgrounds... and many organisms have several common appellations... Stick with the plants, placing just one or two large snails (see the article on such on the WWM site, and look for Ampullaria (old genus), "Mystery" snails... And I suggest some sorts of minnows: barbs, Danios, rasboras here. Take a look over the material about them on the site. Hardy, tolerant of the types of water you mention, eat simple prepared foods... and interesting behaviorally... active, female-attracting, beautiful choices. Bob Fenner>

RE: Aquarium Setup Questions Thank you for the suggestion, I looked around and zebra Danios or tiger barbs look interesting. Would the Danios be better? <Yes, much less "nippy"> And what about Betta? Maybe a male and several females, sites claim that occasionally they'll eat snails, and have special apparatus for breathing air. The bland females would also accentuate the males more showy colorations. They're also touted as hardy by some. <Not snail eaters... and not with other fast moving fishes (they'll eat at the Betta's fins), and don't house females with males... You need to do a bunch more investigating...> Or what about a male Betta and a small school of Danios? I heard the barbs are fin nippers, but wasn't sure on the zebra's. -Matt <Please read up... Perhaps a good reference book... you have good pre-disposing personal traits... but need much background. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Problem (freshwater) I just started an aquarium for my son. We cleaned everything and filled the tank. We let it sit for 2 days before going to get the fish. After about 5 days after we added the fish the tank became cloudy and has a strong order to it. I purchased a product called aqua clear but it has not helped. How do I get rid of the foul smell? Thanx for your help. <Ah, be very careful here... New aquatic systems have a "break in" period in which their almost sterile settings become situated with a host of microbial life... and until these all become settled in, there are possibly fatal "metabolite" poisoning problems (these have been around since folks kept captive aquatics, and are still the number one cause of loss of life, and aquarists in the hobby!). I would stop all feeding for now, and go back to your local fish store, explain what you have read here, how long your system has been up, and ask for a product to help establish (nitrogen) cycling... there are a few. For instance, the Hagen Corp. has one called "Cycle". You want to follow the instructions supplied on the bottle carefully, and maybe purchase a test kit for ammonia, nitrite... And I strongly suggest buying a "bunch" of plants for whatever temperature system this is (some are cool water, others tropical)... Something like "Foxtail", "Anacharis"... Once again, your dealer should be able to point you in the right direction here. This plant material will help you in a few important ways: as a mediator of biological cycling, bottle-necking... as fish food on the fly... to help filter your water... to give your fishes a place to feel safe...  Do this all ASAP, and do hold off on feeding, and placing any more water clarifier at this point. Further information can be accessed on my site: www.WetWebMedia.com  Bob Fenner>

question (on filtering "baby fish" tanks)  I would just like to ask how can I maintain a clean water aquarium in breeding. What filter should I use to protect the little fishes. I'm just planning for it, but I don't know if I'll be successful... Thank you. <Hmm a little hard to be too definite with the information you've provided... but do consider sponge type filters (homemade or commercial: Eheim, Jungle Labs... many other manufacturers) or a gentle bubbling type (air-driven) corner type filter with the top off (the filter media exposed)... And practices like gentle water changes with conditioned water... and possibly snails... Once again, depends on the type of life, system, culture methods. Bob Fenner>

New Freshwater System, Livestock I have a fresh water tank. It had set for 48 hours, but when I went to the pet store to get my fish they told me I would need to let the tank set for 1 to 2 weeks. Is this true? Sincerely, Gina <Yes, and good for the store, folks that encouraged you to wait. What is happening here is a general "break in" period where your new aquariums water is going through changes, like letting chemicals interact and settle out, and a mix of microbes that mainly come from the air (believe it!) that will help keep your water clean and clear, and help cycle wastes... Do wait a good week, and take care to place only a few fishes and maybe some easy, hardy live plant material at first... And be careful not to overfeed! Have them show you about how much, how often is right. Bob Fenner>

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